Waters: Time to let 16-year-olds vote

Keeping young people out of the political process is wrong, says columnist

B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver is trying, once again, to lower the voting age in B.C. to 16.

He points to Scotland, Argentina, Austria and Brazil—where 16 year-olds already have the vote—as examples of how enfranchising young voters has led to substantially higher levels of political participation.

And he backs that up with stats from Elections B.C. showing millennials had the biggest voter turnout increase in last year’s provincial election. Seven per cent more 25 to 34-year-olds voted in that election than did four years earlier.

Weaver is right. If British Columbians are old enough at 16 to drive, pay taxes and sign up for the military, shouldn’t they also be old enough to have a say in how B.C. is governed?

Now, before those opposed to the idea start spouting off that such a move could create a Minister for Gaming and a department of Lands, Forests, Natural Resource Operations and Mountain Biking, consider this this, young people have as much of a vested interest in this province as folks over the age of 18. After all, they will inherit what older voters leave behind and, in the meantime, have to live with the decisions made by (typically) older men and women who get voted into office.

Despite stereotypes, not every 16-year-old can be found at the mall, taking selfies oblivious to what is happening politically in this province.

Sure, not all 16-year-olds are going to jump at the chance of having their voice heard at the ballot box. Well, here’s news—neither do an inordinate number of “adults” who can vote if they want, but most of the time can’t be bothered to do it.

Young people have ideas that are worth listening to and the ability to make measured decisions about who they think can best represent them. So why not give them the chance. Really, what harm could it do?

It would bring more people into the political process, give voice to young people and encourage them to keep voting in later years.

Many years ago, this same issue came up and I wrote a similar column to this one. It was met with outrage by several readers, who blasted the idea of letting young people vote because they felt at 16, a person doesn’t have the life experience to cast a ballot for a political representative.

That was hogwash then, and it’s hogwash now.

Weaver has tried three times to have the voting age in B.C. lowered, no doubt in part because his party’s policies attract a younger demographic. But is that any better than keeping young people out of the process by parties that tend to attract an older demographic?

The more people who have a say in how we govern ourselves in this province, the better.

It’s time B.C.’s electoral system stepped into the 21st century and gave the vote to 16- and 17-year-olds. Unlike many of their older counterparts who are AWOL when it comes to voting, they may actually get out and vote.

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