Posts Tagged ‘vote at 16’
by stuartbramhall in The Global Economic Crisis
In a shelter for homeless runaway teens in New Delhi, the residents have created an unlikely society where everything from healthcare to banking has been initiated, implemented and executed by the kids themselves.
If video fails to play, go to:
The Question of Teen Age Rights
Makes you wonder whether know India will join Austria, Brazil, Cuba, Nicaragua and the Isle of Man, in letting teenagers vote at 16. Surely if adolescents are old enough to work and pay taxes, they are old enough to vote – taxation without representation was a driving issue in America’s rebellion against Britain.
I blog about this at Lowering the Voting Age. Teenage rights and the tendency of US and other western countries to infantalize adolescents is a major premise of my young adult novel The Battle for Tomorrow – about a 16 year old who leaves home to participate in the blockade and occupation of the US capitol.
I’m working on a sequel about a group of teens who occupy a vacant commercial building in Brooklyn and transform it into a teen homeless shelter. As the New Delhi example shows, adolescents are capable of incredible initiative. They just need to be allowed the opportunity to exercise it.
by stuartbramhall in Electoral reform
There is a growing movement in Europe – led primarily by youth demonstration councils and parliaments – to lower the voting age to 16. At present young people vote at 16 in Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Jersey, Guernsey, the Isle of Mann and Slovenia (if in full time employment). In the UK a bill to reduce the voting age to 16 received its second reading in Parliament just before the recent elections. There is also an initiative in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to lower the voting age to 16 in all EU countries.
In other parts of the world, young people vote at 17 in Sudan, Israel (in municipal elections), North Korea, East Timor, and the Seychelles. They vote at 16 in Brazil and Nicaragua, and there is a bill bending in the Taiwan legislature to lower the voting age to 17.
Taxation Without Representation
There are obvious civil rights issues in discriminating against 16 and 17 year olds by denying them the right to vote, especially those that are in full time employment and pay taxes. Although there is no constitutional guarantee against taxation without representation, there is strong tradition in common law that people who pay taxes are entitled to some say in how their tax money is spent. In fact it is one of the more familiar rallying cries leading up to the American Revolution.
There is a certain illogic in allowing teenagers to work (and pay taxes), drive, have sex and be tried in the criminal justice system as adults – and at the same time claiming they are too “immature” to vote. Let’s get serious here. Which is more dangerous – driving or voting? It’s really scary to think that in fourteen states, teenagers are competent to receive the penalty at 16 – and in five at 17. Yet they aren’t competent to vote in those states till they turn 18.
Current Teenagers: the Most Politically Aware Ever
Aside from the civil rights issues, the most compelling argument in countries that have lowered the voting age is that our current generation of teenagers, owing to the proliferation of high speed interactive media (i.e. the Internet), is the most politically aware and educated ever. The second, more politically imperative argument relates to a problematic population demographic present in most western democracies. In short most industrialized countries face a crisis point where a large group of baby boomers can expect to spend approximately 20 years “in retirement,” with a very small pool of working adults paying for their social security, health care and nursing homes. The issue has already reared its ugly head with the controversial proposal to force generation Xers and Yers to work till age 70 before they can retire.
As the Danish representative who introduced the Vote at 16 initiative to the European Parliament points out, denying 16 and 17 year olds input into this major policy shift is a clear invitation to civil unrest.
The only argument I have seen against reducing the voting age is that 16 and 17 olds are still getting to know themselves and are incapable of exercising good political judgement. If we followed this argument to its logical conclusion – that self-knowledge and good judgement are essential for reasonable participation in the electoral process – the US would have to increase the voting age to 40.
For more information on the UK movement see http://www.votesat16.org.uk/