ACT Greens calls for voting age to be lowered to 16

Lachlan Roberts 14 October 2019 150
optional voting

The ACT Greens are calling for optional voting for 16 and 17-year-olds. Photo: File.

The ACT Greens are proposing to lower the voting age to 16, arguing that young people are more engaged in the democratic process than ever before.

ACT Greens MLA Caroline Le Couteur plans to table the amendment to the Electoral Legislation Amendment Bill 2019, which would give 16 and 17-year-olds the option of voting in the 2020 ACT Election if passed.

Under the amendment, 16 and 17-year-olds would be given the opportunity to vote but the compulsory voting age would remain at 18. Ms Le Couteur said the compulsory voting age should remain at 18 because young people should not be punished for not voting.

Based on data from the most recent census, the Greens estimate that this would allow at least 8,500 Canberrans aged 16 and 17-year-olds to vote in the upcoming election.

Ms Le Couteur said the recent climate strikes showed that young people are more engaged in politics than ever before, arguing that they can work, pay taxes, drive, have sex and even sign a lease but aren’t allowed to have a say in their future.

“If young people wish to take part in our democracy, they should have that option,” Ms Le Couteur said. “Young people mature at different rates and some 16-year-olds are really interested and some are not.

“We believe we should make it optional for the first couple of years, so some young people can take it up while some won’t.”

West Australian Greens senator Jordon Steele-John introduced a similar bill to federal parliament before the 2019 Federal Election, but a parliamentary committee rejected the proposal, saying voluntary voting was “counter-intuitive”.

Ms Le Couteur disagreed, saying it was counter-intuitive to not allow passionate young people to have a say on their future. She pointed to historical figures like Alexander the Great, who started his political career when he was in his teens, as a reason why Canberra teenagers should have a say.

“I think the situation that we have now is counter-intuitive, where the people who are going to be more affected by decisions have less ability to affect them,” Ms Le Couteur said. “We should give them a chance to have their say where it counts most – at the ballot box.”

ANU Professor Ian MacAllister’s 2016 Australian Election Study found that only 11 per cent of the respondents thought the voting age should be 16. However, Youth Coalition ACT’s 2016 survey of 2,000 Canberrans found that more than 60 per cent supported lowering the voting age.

Currently, only 11 countries have 16 as the legal voting age, including Scotland, Brazil, Argentina and Austria.

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150 Responses to ACT Greens calls for voting age to be lowered to 16
Scott McGovern Scott McGovern 9:25 pm 21 Oct 19

I have no problem with 16 to vote but it means they have to be treated as adults. So they can be tried in an adult court , can join and fight in the military.

With voting power comes responsibility

wottaway wottaway 8:50 pm 20 Oct 19

This country will never leap ahead until the Greens are wiped out through being ignored at elections.

Claire Claire 9:10 am 18 Oct 19

No. I’d rather see the age raised back to 21 than lowered to 18.

Oh my God Oh my God 7:25 am 18 Oct 19

Oh my god!! Sixteen years old still asking for pocket money. Desperado I’ll say from the Greens.

rationalobserver rationalobserver 8:19 pm 13 Oct 19

Greens need to harvest those votes before the kids mature and vote for someone else.

Capital Retro Capital Retro 10:29 am 13 Oct 19


The Greens aim to extend that fantasy for them.

Ray Young Ray Young 1:26 am 13 Oct 19

O gawd no. Science says b that their brains aren't completely formed at 18... and they are susceptable to things b4 that age... why of course the Greens know and is the main reason to their push...

Nothing against young people and their passion, but that very passion without reason is why it is a bad idea. Ask a baby to have a reasoned dialog about why their dummy should be taken away and they may object (not mind, equating these people with babies... it's an analogy)...

Spiral Spiral 6:12 am 12 Oct 19

Oh the irony!

No one is fooled. We all know that the Greens are pushing this because they believe that people of that age are more likely to vote for them.

While this is not advertising, it is a clear example of the Greens being less than honest in the stated goal of this change. So very ironic after their proposal to hold political parties to a higher stand of truth in advertising. They want the truth to be mandatory but only when they don’t want to be deceptive.

An interesting question is: If young people were more likely to vote for the conservatives, would the Greens be pushing for a raise in the voting age, pointing to the abundance of scientific evidence claiming that our brains don’t mature until we are in our early to mid-twenties?

The Greens frequently tell climate change deniers to listen to the science. Shouldn’t they take their own advice and listen to what science says on brain maturity and push for a raise in the voting age? Or is science only worth listening to when it supports your goals?

Riley Helmling Riley Helmling 9:13 pm 11 Oct 19

Most people my age are leftist leaning, it would certainly help them by opening up a large demographic to be able to vote. However, there are a lot of conservative or centrist leaning people like myself who are more politically aware, and in my experience the more politically aware a person is, the more centrist they appear. Because of this, I don't think it'll cause much shift and would allow those who are interested enough a chance to have their say

Ramiz Makkar Ramiz Makkar 7:18 pm 11 Oct 19

Yeah have more Greta’s being allowed to vote

Trevor Watson Trevor Watson 4:26 pm 11 Oct 19

Fortunately its not going to happen. Just another stunt by Shaggers Rattenbury.... And even if it did get up the Feds would block or revoke it.

Capital Retro Capital Retro 1:35 pm 11 Oct 19

“Once again the greens tackling the big issues.” says Steve Cains

The “big issue” for the Greens was foisting a not-needed tram on a small part of Canberra while the money wasted on it could have been applied to all the other issues you cited.

Steve Cains Steve Cains 1:05 pm 11 Oct 19

Once again the greens tackling the big issues. Whilst our rates are tripled, ACT Health is a basket case, the governments leaving youth mental health to the privates to handle, building approvals a shambles, the jail is the worst in Australia etc... they focus on forcing veganism on prisoners & others & this old chestnut.

Veronika Sain Veronika Sain 12:34 pm 11 Oct 19

The greens are under the misapprehension that only green younger voters would opt in and are failing to understand the sheer numbers in the hardline religious groups who would opt in. All in or not at all.

John Hutch John Hutch 12:06 pm 11 Oct 19

A selfish ploy to get the votes from the youth that are more idealist at their age before gaining worldly experience beyond the confines of school life. The Greens must really look down at the youth in a patronising way to want to garner their votes by lowering the voting age.

Eddie Mijoc Eddie Mijoc 11:26 am 11 Oct 19

Sure.... now that they have brainwashed our children that there is more then two genders and that it's ok to be Gay before you hit puberty and the fact that C02 has stolen their childhood....what could possibly go wrong?

"Insert sarcasm here"

Gabriel Spacca Gabriel Spacca 9:05 am 11 Oct 19

In the ACT at 16 you are legally able to conceive a child. So I figure you should be entitled to have a say in what world that child should grow up.

Monica Tiffen Monica Tiffen 9:02 am 11 Oct 19

Sillier, and sillier!

Thinh Nguyen Thinh Nguyen 1:39 am 11 Oct 19

Let's lower the driving age, alcohol age etc...while we're at it all in one swoop save time and money hey Greens? Don't forget the consent age, let's lower it to 13years old while you're at it. You seem desperate for votes. You want my kindergarten kids to vote for you too while you're at it??

Mark Gillam Mark Gillam 11:31 pm 10 Oct 19

No, put it up

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