14 October 2019

ACT Greens calls for voting age to be lowered to 16

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

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

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

rationalobserver8:19 pm 13 Oct 19

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

Capital Retro10:29 am 13 Oct 19


The Greens aim to extend that fantasy for them.

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?

Capital Retro1:35 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.

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.

Of course the Greens want 16 year olds to vote.

Young idealistic people with almost zero real world life experience are the perfect Greens supporters.

Who else would vote for them.

HiddenDragon7:48 pm 10 Oct 19

There is, of course, the entertaining possibility that this cunning plan could backfire, in classic Wile E. Coyote style – after all, the ACT Young Liberals can be surprisingly well organised when they put their minds to it……..

Capital Retro1:42 pm 10 Oct 19

The Greens are cunning as they know 16 is too young to get a driver’s license so the ab initio voters will have to cycle to the polling booth which is the way Greens want us to travel. The Greens will claim a major victory as one of their policies is adopted even before the votes are counted.

Give the Greens a couple more years of fanning the Student Strike fire, and they will be demanding the reduction of the voting age. It could even become an emergency.

I like the idea of of non-compulsory voting for 16 & 17 year olds in theory, but I do remember the first time I voted when I was 18. I voted the way my parents told me to vote. I fear that many of these votes will in effect be a second vote for their parents.

I accept that some teenagers of that age have already formed views and are advanced in their thinking over many of their peers. But many others will be manipulated by parents. I don’t mean the parents do this with bad ideas in mind; it’s rather more that’s how WE have always voted, and the WE is expected to include their child. So, except for the advanced thinkers among the teenagers, I wonder how many of these teenagers (likely the majority) will know enough to vote. (Yes, many adults don’t either, but with age and experience not having any idea of who and what voting means, hopefully reduces.)

Stupid. Can’t drink, can’t drive, and the courts treat them as children – but the Greens want them to able to vote. Stupid. Also politically motivated as studies show they are more likely to vote for left-leaning parties. So both stupid and self interested.

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