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Lowering the Voting Age: Should Young People Head to the Polls?

March 23, 2023

In recent years, the debate about lowering the voting age has intensified in many countries. Typically, young people around the world can head to the polls between 16 and 18 years of age, although some nations like Singapore and Taiwan set the age at 21 and 20, respectively.

Proponents argue that people as young as 16 are fully capable of making informed decisions and should be entitled to participate in their nation's democratic processes. They rightly argue that at 16, young people can drive, pay taxes, and sometimes join the military. Why not vote? 

Critics, however, consider 16-year-olds to lack the maturity and life experience necessary to vote. Some argue that young people may be more easily influenced by their parents or vote in favour of politicians or policies without full understanding. They also argue that proponents are incorrect in their belief that the change would increase the turnout among young people, as 18–24-year-olds tend to have the lowest rates of voter participation in countries without mandatory voting. 

Professor Lisa Hill, from the University of Adelaide, thinks the split is actually along generational lines. On the sidelines of the Australian National University's Australian Political Studies Association (APSA) conference, she said the idea is gaining traction, but older voters need the most convincing. 

"The vast majority of adults do not want young people, 16- or 17-year-olds, to have the vote. There isn't a lot of community support for it [in Australia], but there's a lot of advocacy from some organisations and young people themselves are pushing for it. They think that young people don't have the moral authority to vote and that they don't have the political competence to vote. They worry they'll make bad decisions against their own interests, like lowering bedtime and having no internet controls, reducing the age of consent and getting rid of compulsory schooling." 

"But, according to Condorcet's [jury] theorem, the more people you bring into an electorate, the better its decisions are," she said. 

Listen to the full podcast >> Lowering the voting age – should young people head to the polls?

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