Voting is an essential rite of passage for any 18-year-old, but should 16-year-olds have the right to vote?
Acting chief electoral officer Stephane Perrault told CBC News he thinks it is “worth considering.”
While 16-year-olds are children in the eyes of the law, many have what we would consider “adult responsibilities.” A 16-year-old pays taxes, through income and HST, but has no say over how those dollars are spent.
There are some fantastic teens out there, like Claudette Colvin, who at 15 challenged segregation in 1955; Louis Braille, who developed Braille at 15; and Malala Yousafzai, who was also 15 when she was shot for fighting for girls’ right to go to school. As a student, I was amazed by the efforts of classmates to end hunger, end poverty, help the environment and more.
Being informed and maturity levels are not requirements for voting. If it were, many eligible voters would not be allowed to cast a ballot. There is the assumption that 16-year-olds are uninformed, yet they may be following issues more closely in school. In fact, the civics course taken in Grade 10 gives everyone their first crash course in how politics work.
In 2015, 922,000 students of all ages from all over Canada voted in a parallel federal election. Organizers state that this process provides an opportunity to learn and build habits of engaged citizenship.
Perrault said those who vote early in their lifetime continue to do so, and those who don’t tend not to start voting later in life.
Encourage student vote
It has recently been floated that the voting age in Canada should be dropped to 16 from 18.
The argument for the shift? It’s a way to encourage young Canadians to engage in politics and become lifelong voters.
Who’s going to argue with that?
However, voter turnout for those aged 18 to 24 increased to 57 per cent in 2015 (from 39% in 2011).
Wouldn’t it make more sense to look at just what encouraged these 18- to 24-year-olds to actually get out and vote?
I don’t think an 18% increase in voter turnout is anything to scoff at.
Many high schools throughout Canada participate in Student Vote. The process coincides with government elections; the students do their research and they cast a ballot the exact same way they would if they were actually voting in the election.
The difference is that it’s a teaching moment. Students learn the importance of knowing the parties and understanding the issues.
By participating in programs like this the education system is teaching young people – Canada’s future – how to be smart, confident voters when they cast their first legitimate ballot.
Wouldn’t it make more sense to make Student Vote mandatory in all high schools, teaching students what to do, allowing them to ask questions and encouraging them to begin a lifetime of voter engagement?