Should the voting age be lowered to 16?
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This question has been debated nationwide during these past years. A fundamental element in the success of a democratic society is the willingness of the people to be self-governing. In today’s modern society, to say that we have a government that is for, by, and of the people does not mean that each citizen is dictatorial. It does not imply that each citizen takes the law into his or her own hands, but rather that everyone has the responsibility to actively participate in society. Thus, the problem of declining voter participation is an extremely serious one indeed. People are trying to come up with various solutions for this problem but the most debatable resolution is whether the voting age be lowered from eighteen to sixteen. What would persuade the government to lower the voting age to an even lower one than the young adults age of eighteen? On the other hand how can the youth of Canada who have their individual opinions and beliefs be able to make a difference in society without having the right to vote? I strongly believe that lowering the voting age will interest youth to further participate in politics and they will have an effect on the course of their future.
In today’s world, sixteen year olds are more mature and responsible than ever. Taking into consideration the amount of responsibility placed on teens, it does not seem inappropriate to include the right to vote. The population of Ontario between the ages of ten to eighteen accounts for about 14% of the province’s overall population. Of this 14%, thousands already possess a vast political knowledge and have similar concerns and demands of people who actually vote. In addition to that, the youth of Canada also have problems of their own which they are unable to address substantially to the government. Teenagers are interested in matters much different compared to an employed adult. They are more concerned about class sizes, lack of job opportunities and minimum wage. It has been said that parents should be the voice for their children but it is inevitable that they will vote according to their best interests and needs. Therefore their opinions remain unheard and aren’t taken into consideration, which is absolutely unfair in a democratic society.
Denying youth the right to vote is the same as denying women or racial minorities the right to vote. Nowadays it is very common for teenagers to have jobs and pay taxes, which is similar to what adults do. They also go to school to learn about politics and are aware of the issues in our world. The youth of Canada are perceived as mature in many aspects of life and yet they are seen as too immature to vote for themselves in an election or referendum. Sixteen year olds living in Canada could legally get married, have a family of their own, possess a driver’s license, work full time and yet the right to vote is refused to them. It is rather confusing because if you can manage all these responsibilities and make these choices how can you be too immature to vote.
It is frustrating for people under eighteen who are politically aware and put a lot of effort in their work for political campaigns. The beliefs and priorities of sixteen year olds are unique to them. Politicians who once were sixteen year olds are unlikely to have an accurate perspective compared to a current teenager. If the Canadian Government cares at all about the opinions and desires of their young population, they must give them the opportunity to vote for themselves. By giving them this opportunity, they will have the possibility to influence the course their life.
The right to vote is currently granted at probably the worst moment in one’s life. At eighteen many choose to leave the home and community they have lived in for the majority of their lives. They either move away to carry on with their studies or move away from home in search of a job. Being in a new community, which you are unfamiliar with, will turn off many voters. Lowering the voting age to sixteen will give the vote to people who have roots in a community, are aware of local issues, and will be more concerned about voting than those two years older. Youth have comfortable surroundings such as school, parents and friends. They feel connected to their community; all factors that will increase their desire and need to vote.
Attempts are often made to prevent young people from picking up bad habits, why are no attempts made to get youth acquainted with good habits, like voting? If Canadian citizens are involved in the process of voting earlier and get into the habit of doing so, the chances of them sticking with it through life is much higher. Political experts believe that not only will the turnout of young voters increase; it is also very probable that the turnout of their parents will increase as well.
The argument that youth should be given the right to vote because they lack the ability to make informed and intelligent decisions is only valid if these criteria are applied to all citizens. Yet they are not applied to everyone, only to young people. Senile people are not deprived of this right and neither are the thousands of alcoholics, drug-addicts and psychotics. It is obvious that intelligence or maturity is not the basis upon which the right to vote is granted because if that were the case all voters would need to pass a test before voting. Youth and adults should have the same voting rights in a democratic country.
Lowering the voting age will not dramatically improve the lives of youth, but I strongly believe that by giving them a real stake in their present lives that it will push them to become more involved and active citizens.