There has been an outcry from a group ‘Make it 16’, petitioning for the voting age to be lowered from 18 to 16 years. They argue that denying the political voice (and vote) of 16 year olds is a form of discrimination and a violation of the Bill of Rights act.
They argue that because you are able to drive, consent to sex, work, move out of home, etc… you should also be able to have a say in politics. While this seems to be a coherent argument on paper, there are still several holes in their stance.
While you are granted many legal liberties at the age of 16, these are to begin the transition from a dependent youth to an independent adult. While some 16 year olds will move out of home as soon as the laws allow them to, it’s safe to say that the majority are not either in the position to, or ready for that independence and adult responsibility. As a former 16 year old, I can say that I loved the ‘do what you want’ side of growing up, but not so much the responsibility that came with it; that was much less attractive.
They also argue that 16 and 17 year olds are just as impacted by government legislation as the rest of the older population, and this is entirely true. Everyone is affected by government decisions, but does everyone have the life experience, maturity and understanding to have a say in those decisions? At 16, I think not. Even 18 is a stretch for having enough understanding of the world to make a balanced decision on voting or legislation, but that is part of the transition into adulthood. While 16 year olds may be passionate about a political cause, they lack the maturity and understanding to hold a balanced and multi-faceted approach to causes, often moving with the crowd, or whatever is politically correct at the time; lacking the maturity to think and discern for themselves what is right or wrong.
Youth are still encouraged and able to get involved with politics, with most major to minor parties hosting ‘young supporters’ clubs, encouraging them to get involved with the causes they’re interested in. Youth are also granted the same exposure to politics as the rest of the populous, allowing them to observe and form their own political opinions, that they may cast their informed vote when their time comes.
They may still hold the exact same views they held as a 16 year old when they turn 18, but allowing those 2 years to grow and mature is a reasonable safeguard to ensure democracy is decided by those who have the maturity to do so. Any politician pushing to allow an immature and easily manipulated vote should be a concern to all voters. Youth have more than enough going on in their world while transitioning to adulthood, so let’s keep it simple for them, and keep it 18.
By Luke Tetley-Jones