Give Us a Voice: Why 16 and 17 year olds Should Have the Right to Vote

The recent referendum in Scotland prompted many discussions about independence and what it means to be a country, but it also started one more. Should 16 and 17 years olds be granted the right to vote?

It’s no secret that here in Canada we have a problem with voter turnout. The percentages of eligible voters that have cast a ballot in the five federal elections since the new century began have been dismal. It even reached a record low of 58.8% in 2008, thought the most recent election in 2011 managed to be slightly higher at 61.1%. This is particularly bad in people aged 18-20 and 21-24 year olds, with only 22% turnout and 28% turnout respectively.

Advocates of a lower voting age have said that allowing 16 and 17 year olds to vote could boost these numbers, citing the record setting 84.5% turnout of the Scottish referendum (which gave votes to those 16 and older) as an example. One reason this may be is that 16 and 17 year olds are generally still living in a more stable environment (their homes as opposed to a dorm room), and thus may be more likely to access a voting station. It has also been said that if teenagers are allowed to vote at a younger age they may be more likely to continue voting later in life.

One reasons used against allowing teens to vote is the idea that they don’t really care, and would thus only vote for who their parents tell them. Doesn’t this sound familiar? This exact excuse was used in the early twentieth century as a reason to not allow women the right to vote. Another popular excuse is that us teens simply “don’t care about politics”. Sure, some teens are disinterested with the subject, but so are some adults! With the increasingly bad turnouts in recent elections, what better way to ensure more voters in the coming years than by allowing us to vote from a young age? As well, if 16 and 17 year olds were allowed to vote it could encourage political literacy, as teens would feel more included in the political process.

The decisions our government makes today greatly impact our future, and the consequences of decisions being made mainly by baby boomers will be our problems to deal with. It’s time that teenagers get a say in these decisions, for it’s our future on the line.