Thursday, March 01, 2018

Time to lower the voting age

Children's Commissioner Andrew Becroft raised the issue of a lower voting age at Parliament yesterday, arguing that it would lead to stronger citizenship and improved policy:

Judge Andrew Becroft mooted the proposal at Parliament on Wednesday, when he appeared in front of the MPs on the Social Services Select Committee and said those teens would be "up for the responsibility".

"I'm calling for a genuine discussion," he said.

"All that I have seen about our democratic system, shows that those that are least involved and invested in it are our young. The lowest voting turnout is the 18-29 age group, we've got to do better.

"I think provided it went hand-in-hand at good civics education, with a commitment to teach about the operation of Government, how kids can be involved, what voting means, everything I've seen indicates that 16 and 17-year-olds will be up for that responsibility."

This is an issue I have long supported, and I would love to see progress in this area. The basic moral argument for a lower voting age is unassailable - young people have interests, and those interests should count equally with everyone else's. Denying them a direct voice and pretending they are represented by their parents leads to policy outcomes which favour the old over the young - policies like destroying the climate, running deficits to pay for tax cuts, and introducing student loans. Becroft is absolutely right that those policies would change if political parties had to appeal to those presently excluded.

But perhaps that's what they're afraid of?