Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Lower the Voting Age

So, on we go with ideas to improve our dear country. This one is a bit strange and I'm not even sure I agree with it entirely. However, there are really good reasons to lower the voting age to 16. First, why sixteen? Well, at sixteen you are old enough to have sex (even by Tory standards) and drive a car. You are clearly able to make big decisions. However, that's not why I want the voting age to be sixteen. Political scientists make a big deal of the fact that voter turnout among young people has fallen dramatically over the last thirty years. I would argue part of the reason is the changing nature of early adulthood. It used to be that a small minority of the population went to university. Those that did go off to school usually went to the closest school to them. The University of Toronto served Toronto. Now, students spread out across the country and the world. This means they are removed from the place in which they grew up. They are removed from their local community. A community where they may have been involved. I make a habit of trekking back to Toronto to vote in elections. I feel much more a part of my riding in Toronto-Danforth than I do here in Kingston. However, many students won't bother with the trip. Particularly, if the first election they have a chance to vote in happens when they are at school. By lowering the voting age to sixteen we would allow people to register to vote and vote for the first time while in high school. This would allow them to vote in areas they care about, for candidates they might know something about. Would all sixteen year olds necessarily be informed voters? No. But they wouldn't all vote either. However, I firmly believe that by starting the process earlier we would make voting part of their routine. If people can vote for the first time when they still live at home, they will be around their parents who are far likelier to vote than their peers at university. The parents, we hope, will have a positive impact. I think it is worth a shot. I don't think there is high possibility that sixteen and seventeen year olds will be coerced, nor do I think that a bunch of people who wouldn't know Stephen Harper if he took their money and used it for federal election ads are going to start voting en masse. I think there is low risk and high reward on this one. Did I just come out in favour of electoral reform? Why yes, yes I did.

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