Voting age should be lowered to 16

Voting age should be lowered to 16

Young people, who are most likely to feel the long-term effects of today’s political decisions, should be allowed to vote from the age of 16, the Human Right Law Centre said today in a submission to the Australian Parliament’s electoral committee.

Hannah Ryan, Lawyer with the Human Rights Law Centre, said the right to vote is a fundamental component of democracy.

“Young people are most likely to benefit from or be burdened by the long-term consequences of today’s political decisions. They have extraordinary access to information, and are more engaged than ever before on issues that affect them and the world that they live in,” said Ryan.

Recently, issues such as climate change and same sex marriage have seen young people in Australia engage in public deliberation and express frustration in not being able to have their views recognised through a vote.

“Young people want to have their say. Lowering the age would strengthen their voices. It is they, after all, who will bear the brunt of an issue like climate change.”

“By age 16 and 17, young people can learn to drive, enlist in the army, and consent to sexual intercourse. Science shows us that by 16, you’re mature enough to vote. Young people should be allowed to vote from age 16.”

The Human Rights Law Centre also supports the proposal to allow 14 year olds to enrol to vote in line with the current model where 16 year olds can enrol with a view to voting at 18.

“The ideal time to get young people politically engaged and on the electoral role is when they are at school and living at home. The more people think about voting at a young age, the more likely they’ll also do it when older,” said Ryan.

The Human Rights Law Centre also supports the proposal to enrol or amend their enrolment on polling day.

“The current system, which stops people from enrolling 7 days after the election writs are issued, makes no sense and discriminates against young first-time voters,” said Ryan.

A copy of the Human Rights Law Centre’s submission is here.

For interview please call:

Michelle Bennett, Director of Communications, Human Rights Law Centre, 0419 100 519

Photo credit: AEC