This morning, The Australian reported that the Labor Party is considering introducing non-compulsory voting for 16-year-olds as part of its second white paper.
I think it’s a great idea to allow 16 and 17 year olds to vote. We should, as a society, allow as many people as possible to vote, so the voting age should be set at the lowest level where people can make a informed, educated decision (although many adults don’t make informed decisions, so I don’t know why we would expect anything more from teenagers).
16 year olds have almost reached adulthood and have a lot of responsibility, with many having jobs and most having an interest in government through their education.
Young people are a very weak voting bloc, partly due to the fact that most young people can’t vote. Teenagers’ interests and political beliefs often don’t align with their parents and we can’t expect parents to represent their older children’s interests in the political process. It strikes me that most policy regarding education and youth is aimed more at parents than the actual children affected.
Although I don’t generally support compulsory voting, I find it bizarre that we would treat teenagers differently in this regard. It’s true plenty of teenagers might be unenthusiastic about voting, but all of these arguments against letting teenagers vote can be applied to letting anyone vote, considering many voters are apathetic, unengaged and uninformed. It’s not a good reason to deprive them of a vote.
From a political perspective, lowering the voting age undoubtedly helps the Labor Party and the Greens. But I think it would be more significant in shifting policy to areas more favourable to youth. And the idea of state education ministers having to consider the impact of their policy on voting Year 11s and 12s is revolutionary.
So what do you think? Should we lower the minimum voting age?
Update: I did an interview this evening for ABC News Radio Drive. You can listen to it here.