The Case for Lowering the Voting Age to 16
Lowering the voting age in New Brunswick to 16 years will boost democratic engagement and participation and will lead to higher voter turnout both in the short and long term. Voter participation of the younger, eligible-to- vote demographic (18- to 24-year-olds) is low in our province: in 2010, only approximately 30% of 18 – 24 year olds eligible to vote actually did so. Elections NB has implemented methods to improve youth voter turnout but these efforts have not made much impact on youth voter turnout. We need to do more.
Meanwhile, 16- and 17-year olds in New Brunswick want to vote. Several youth organizations in the province have been pushing for this change for years.
This age group is an ideal demographic for improving youth voter turnout for a number of reasons:
- Experiencing civic engagement while still in high school helps youth to learn about, understand and appreciate their rights and responsibility to vote. Big life changes following graduation from high school can make life tumultuous. After graduation youth may move away from their home community to attend college or university or to begin their working careers. Moving out of the family home, decrease in parental influence and increase of influence of peers who may have poor voting habits may take hold. An individual who begins voting at age16, with the help of one’s home community and school system, is more likely to stay a voter than someone who begins to vote later on in life.
- Lowering the voting age to 16 years in New Brunswick would be a first in Canada, however it is the norm in many countries. Austria, Brazil and Denmark have extended the right to vote to 16- and 17-year olds; 16-year-olds can vote in municipal elections in Norway; and this age group recently voted in the Scottish referendum. Research has shown that 16-year-olds have the knowledge, interest and maturity to participate in the electoral process.
- The youth in our province want to be politically engaged and to have their voices heard in a meaningful way. Many 16 and 17 year olds hold driver’s licenses, have part- time jobs, pay taxes, and contribute to our society in much the same way as adults, yet they cannot help decide who will represent them in the Legislative Assembly. How can our youth feel that they have an important place in our province if they are not allowed to vote?
- Youth know youth best, so let’s include them in the decision-making process and take advantage of all their energy and great ideas!
How to Support Lowering the Voting Age to 16
- Spread the word! Word of mouth travels quickly;
- Sign the petition! There will be a petition posted in both English and French on DavidCoonMLA.ca under ‘Petitions.’ Print it out and get all of your friends to sign it;
- Contact Partners for Youth and ask them how you can help support their efforts;
- Get your school groups involved (civics, political science clubs, etc.);
- Explain to older people why you want to vote;
- Youth Roundtable on Feb. 18; and
Written by Margot Malenfant, Legislative Assistant, Office of the Green Party Leader