21 February 2022

Inquiry recommends bill to lower voting age to 16 should not be passed

| Lottie Twyford
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Tara Craemer-Banks, Johnathan Davis and Dr Justin Barker

Tara Craemer-Banks (aged 16), ACT Greens MLA Johnathan Davis and Dr Justin Barker of the Youth Coalition want to see the voting age lowered to 16. Photo: Lottie Twyford.

An ACT Government inquiry into a Greens’ proposal to lower the voting age to 16 has recommended that the Assembly not pass the bill.

The bill – introduced by Greens’ backbenchers Johnathan Davis and Andrew Braddock – would have allowed 16 and 17-year-olds in the ACT to vote in local elections but not in Federal elections. It would have also lowered the fine for not voting from $20 to $10.

Mr Braddock, who sat on the Standing Committee on Justice and Community Safety, which inquired into the bill, provided a dissenting report.

“I’m disappointed that, given the level of evidence in support of the Bill, particularly from a coalition of over 30 academic experts from universities and the youth sector, the committee has still chosen to not support the Bill,” Mr Braddock said.

“Young people have shown they want a voice when it comes to the decisions that impact their lives and their futures, and we owe it to them to keep campaigning on this issue.”

However, Mr Braddock said it is not the end of the proposal and the Greens would bring an improved bill back to the Assembly for consideration.

Andrew Braddock

ACT Greens MLA Andrew Braddock co-sponsored the bill and said it would be improved and brought back to the Assembly for consideration. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

In his dissenting report, Mr Braddock argued there wasn’t any substantive or empirical evidence to support the committee, concluding that there would be potential mental health and wellbeing impacts on young people.

He also said there is no reason that any positive benefits documented by overseas jurisdictions which have lowered the age to 16 would be negated in the ACT because voting is compulsory here.

Mr Braddock acknowledged that compulsory voting – which could expose young people to criminal penalties and the justice system – was a consistent concern expressed in submissions to the inquiry, but he argued these concerns are not unique to 16 and 17 year-olds.

“For the population as a whole, the benefits of compulsory voting are seen to outweigh the costs of the consequences. It is perhaps time to re-examine infringement policies more broadly and their inequitable impacts across the community,” his report read.

He said he and his co-sponsor, Mr Davis, would explore these issues further.

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ACT Labor’s position is that lowering the voting age to 16 is worth consideration, but voting should be compulsory. The Canberra Liberals, however, want the voting age to remain at 18.

Opposition Leader Elizabeth Lee said lowering the voting age constitutes “substantial electoral reform proposed by two Greens backbenchers with significant legal and social implications that have not been completely considered”.

Her party’s submission previously rubbished the proposal, accusing the Greens of trying to increase their vote.

The majority of respondents who participated in an online survey conducted during the inquiry supported lowering the voting age to 16.

Of the 438 responses received, 58 per cent agreed to lowering the voting age, 40 per cent disagreed and 2 per cent said they were unsure.

But the report said the committee was “cautious on drawing conclusions from the results” as participants were not randomly selected and would have been more likely to participate in the survey if they held strong views on the topic.

Instead, the committee recommended the ACT Government explore “alternative ways to further engage young people in the democratic process.”

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The ACT Greens have long been pushing for the voting age to be lowered to 16 – first introducing legislation that would have done so in 1996. Their position used to be that voting for 16 to 17-year-olds should be compulsory, although this was changed in the latest bill, creating a point of difference from ACT Labor.

The ACT Electoral Commission is strongly opposed to lowering the voting age.

Earlier this year, Electoral Commissioner Damian Cantwell told the inquiry that there would be a significant administrative burden if the ACT became non-aligned with other jurisdictions, including the Commonwealth.

He was also concerned about children being forced to engage with the criminal justice system and potentially front court for failing to vote, as well as the possibility of a 16-year-old standing for election.

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I would gladly forfeit my vote and hand it to a 16 year old. They can’t do any worse than I do. I keep voting for responsible policies and get clowns.

&Bekah Glaz
Re your ”No taxation without representation. One of the few decent things to come from the US.”
You may find things are a little rosier for you in their lower house.

Voting in primaries at 17 years old..
In several states, 17-year-olds who will be 18 by the time of the next general election are permitted to vote in that year’s primaries and caucuses.
Since primary and caucus processes are often determined by the parties themselves, there are some states in which a 17-year-old may vote, even if there is no state law explicitly permitting it.[1][2][3]

As of February 9, 2021, in 17 states, 17-year-olds turning 18 by the time of the general election were permitted to vote in that year’s congressional primaries.
In 19 states, 17-year-olds could vote in the presidential primaries and/or caucuses of both major parties.
In an additional four states, 17-year-olds could participate only in Democratic presidential primaries and/or caucuses.

&Bekah Glaz
Re your ”No taxation without representation. One of the few decent things to come from the US.”

Regret but “”Constitutional Qualifications for Senators””

“No Person shall be a Senator who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty Years, and been nine Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State for which he shall be chosen. [U.S. Constitution, Article I, section 3, clause 3]””

Voting rights for people who know diddly squat except the bodily motions of their favourite influencer on TikTok, no thanks

The Greens have a lot of interest in pushing for the child vote, their own polling shows high levels of support from school children. This is not about representing children it is about grabbing some easy votes.
This same party support raising the age of criminal responsibility, while also pushing to lower the age of voting?!

The Greens hypocritically and deceptively claim to represent the interests of young people, but in reality risk “children being forced to engage with the criminal justice system and potentially front court for failing to vote”. The Electoral Commission was and is strongly opposed to lowering the voting age and that fact alone should have stopped the Greens from persuing yet another of their ridiculous ideas, costing all of us. The Greens pretend to be concerned about the numbers of people already engaging with the legal system and in the AMC, but propose something that would expose young people – my kids, your kids, our kids, to criminal penalties and the justice system.
Surely the greater fools are not the naive and ideological driven Greens, but the people who irresponsibly vote for them.

Well that’s a shame.
I guess if the age was lowered to 16, then they could also be voted into the Assembly.
Might be interesting to see perhaps such a young Attorney General, or even A Chief Min.
Their Mums could drop them off at the Assembly while onto her work.

I have 6 children and when several of them had to vote for the first time at 18 they came for advice because they had no interest in politics but they did not want to be fined. My advice was to vote in formally.

Well what a great example you have been to them. How about using the time before the poll to actually learn something about politics and how our voting system works. I suppose at least if they vote informal then they have no right to complain about anything any of the elected representatives do.

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