This week Green Party leader Andrew Weaver caused a stir with his bill to lower the voting age in British Columbia to 16.
A story about the proposed change posted to the Citizen website and Facebook page garnered quite a bit of comment from readers, most of whom are decidedly against the idea.
Responses ranged from “You still have your ‘L’ in this dinosaur of a province at 16, so unless you can drive yourself without legally requiring adult supervision to a voting station, that will be a negative from me, with an eye roll,” to “16 years old minds are easily influenced by teachers, parents, and older peers. So whose vote would they be placing? Their own, or someone else’s?” and “16 this is the age group that thinks Tide pods are for eating”.
But there were some others that give one reason to think seriously about making the change: “Yes! With a current 51% voter turnout maybe we would see some real change. Think about it folks, these kids are actually learning about politics in school, maybe people with an actual understanding of how our system works would vote with a brain instead of locked into voting for the party they always vote for!”, “Absolutely. Do you want people to grow up with an understanding of civic responsibility? Then 18 is too old to start.”
In truth, many people who are old enough to vote now cast their ballots for the nuttiest of reasons.
Maybe they liked a candidate’s smile, or it’s the name on the ballot they actually recognize. People vote for all sorts of reasons that aren’t necessarily the sober, serious look at issues and implications for the future we might wish them to be. Would 16 year olds be significantly different in this respect?
It is important to make our youth feel enfranchised, and get them interested in democratic participation. This idea isn’t as crazy as it might appear at first.