By Tina Shaygan, August 30 2016 —
Last week, Edmonton City Council passed a vote to endorse the lowering of the municipal voting age to 16. There are sound arguments on both sides of the issue, but ultimately a voting age of 16 should be implemented.
People do not fall down a rabbit hole on their 18th birthday and wake up with an enlightened worldview, justifying their right to vote. Voting is also not a privilege to be earned after years of working and paying taxes to the government and frankly, it’s undemocratic to tie voting rights to taxes. Voting is a way to impact your environment and shape the future in your interest. Thousands of 17 and 18-year-olds are entering University of Calgary this week and they should have had a say in the decisions that are going to shape their university career.
If the argument is that 16-year-olds lack the ability to make informed choices, then there is enough research to deprive us all of our voting rights. But the spirit of a democratic election is that you are granted a voice, regardless of whether one believes you do or do not have the ability to make the best choice. That’s because representative democracy isn’t about making policy decisions. It is simply a way to be considered as a factor in the implications of these decisions. Government policies such as student debt, investment and housing will have a huge impact on the lives of 16 and 17-year-olds. They deserve an avenue to ensure they are represented in our governments.
Vote choice is the result of a combination of factors including socioeconomic status, religion, partisanship, campaigns and relevant issues. While some of these factors may change throughout the years with age, the issues that impact this particular age group remain. Sixteen and 17-year-olds are on the cusp of making important life decisions. To claim that they don’t have an understanding of what is important to them is simply misguided. Granting voting rights to 16-year-olds could be a way ensure these important issues are not overlooked.
By lowering the voting age we allow 16-year-olds to demand more accountability from the government. Including another voting block with certain interests asks that policies be refined to reflect a larger portion of society, and that simply cannot be a bad thing.