Lowering the required minimum age to vote to 16 from 18 would increase the involvement of young people in politics, according to Green Party members.
The Green Party’s platform claims that a lower voting age would give “young people more say in their future and [instill] habits of civic participation.” Green Party leader Elizabeth May also introduced a bill in Parliament to lower the voting age in May 2018.
The Climate Strikes that youth took part in worldwide on Sept. 27 this year highlighted the issue, said Louise Boutin, Green Party candidate for Vancouver Granville.
“Our young people are saying, on the street … ‘I’m disenfranchised, I don’t feel like voting’,” said Boutin. “It’s like wasting a vote.”
Joan Martin, a professor in child psychology at the University of Victoria, said voting could be treated as a “coming of age” ritual akin to prom.
“Currently, they are taught about the [democratic] process in school, but what they are learning would be more meaningful, and more likely to turn into a life-long habit, if the course actually included voting,” Martin said in an emailed statement.
In response to critics who question the mental processes of a 16 or 17-year-old, Martin argued that a “substantial number of adults never become sophisticated abstract reasoners of the kind we all would like voters to be, yet the law does not use reasoning ability to decide which adults can vote.”
However, first-year nursing student Nhan Tran doesn’t think he would have been ready to vote at 16.
“When you’re 16 and 17, you’re really young, so [you’d be] a bit confused unless you know about politics,” said Tran, adding that his values from when he was younger were different than how they are now.
“I feel like it’s better if you’re 18 or 19. You’re a young adult and can make your [own] decisions.”
— With files from Lauren Gargiulo
Judy Zaichkowsky, Green Party candidate for Vancouver South, speaks on the campaign promise to lower the voting age: