19 September 2023

Greens renew push to expand voting to 16 and 17-year-olds

| Lizzie Waymouth
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Johnathan Davis MLA

“Young people are disproportionately affected by the decisions we make in the Assembly,” Johnathan Davis MLA said. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

The ACT Greens have scheduled a debate in the Legislative Assembly this week into whether 16 and 17-year-olds in Canberra should be able to voluntarily vote in next year’s Territory election, despite a previous inquiry advising against it.

The Greens have long supported extending the right to vote to 16 and 17-year-olds and argue that young people should have more say in local decisions that impact them.

“Young people are disproportionately affected by the decisions we make in the Assembly. They are inheriting a planet, economy and living conditions in urgent need of repair, and they deserve a say,” ACT Greens spokesperson on young people Johnathan Davis said.

“The Canberra Liberals have expressed no interest in this reform, but we don’t know which way the local Labor MLAs will vote. It’s time to find out.”

When the Electoral Amendment Bill was first presented to the Assembly by the Greens in December 2021, it was met with opposition from both parties, but the Greens have now prepared amendments based on community feedback and say – ahead of the 2024 election – now is the time to empower young voters.

“In 1901, the right to vote applied only to men aged 21 and over, excluding First Nations people. As we have many times since then, it’s again time to expand the right to vote to align with community expectations, and the neuroscience that demonstrates 16 and 17-year-olds have the maturity to vote,” ACT Greens spokesperson on democracy Andrew Braddock said.

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The Justice and Community Safety Committee inquired into the bill in 2021 and received 18 submissions from individuals, community organisations and political parties.

“While the committee does not support the Electoral Amendment Bill 2021, it fully recognises the valuable contribution that young people make to the Canberra community,” it concluded.

In its submission, ACT Labor said that “consideration should be given to allowing people 16 and 17 years of age to vote”, but several need to be considered.

Labor expressed concerns about introducing voluntary voting for 16 and 17-year-olds and ensuring consistent communication.

“This may inadvertently lead to a cohort of young ACT voters who ‘miss the memo’ in future elections,” its submission said.

It said there could be a “significant communication challenge” to avoid mixed messaging due to a possible inconsistency between Federal and Territory voting age.

Labor also highlighted the potential challenges in politically engaging younger voters.

“As the electoral commission has highlighted … considerable funding and support would be necessary to support the increased role of the Commission in not only managing the enrolment and roll for 16 and 17-year-olds but also in engaging and communicating with them in respect of their obligations,” it said.

The Canberra Liberals were resoundingly against the bill, arguing that 18 is still the appropriate age for all civic responsibilities and that while it is important to hear the views of young people on the issues that affect them, extending the franchise was not the best way to do this.

“If we take the argument advanced by many of this proposal’s proponents to its fullest extent, it would permit toddlers who are the beneficiary of the government’s childcare reforms a vote. While 16 and 17-year-olds are naturally more politically engaged than toddlers, the fact remains the acts of taxation and government benefits alone are evidently not considered adequate for enfranchisement,” its submission said.

The Liberals argued that the bill was simply a “cheap vote-grabbing exercise” by the Greens.

“This bill is a poorly masked attempt by the Greens to increase their vote in ACT elections. If you are changing the law based on trying to increase or decrease a vote share, that is a bad motivator for change.”

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The inquiry recommended that the Assembly not pass the Electoral Amendment Bill but explore other ways to further engage young people in the democratic process.

However, in response to community feedback, the Greens have prepared amendments to the bill that will allow new voters to receive an educational warning notice if they appear to fail to vote at their first election, maintaining the compulsory nature of voting while providing a more effective response than an automatic fine.

“We’ve been working through every barrier raised with us about this reform to keep the focus on enhancing our local democracy,” Mr Braddock said.

“Our legislation retains the principle of compulsory voting, but we will also ensure that any new voter who appears to not vote will receive a more effective educational response rather than an automatic fine.”

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If they can vote then lower the age of criminal responsibility. Lower the age of consent.
Nah they just want to lower it so they can get more votes. If this happens the schools will be even more left leaning than they are now.

Look at the kid in the USA that took the gadsden flag to school. he was forced to sit out. Only retrubition was to video the teacher and publically out them as being totally left leaning.

Everyone has the same right to vote, they just have to experience the world a little to make an informed choice.

Imagine how the greens would act if Liberals got in and raised it to 30? They’d be enraged.
Gerrymandering is Gerrymandering. Green are undemocratic. Thats why all the greens are glueing themselves to things.

oldriotactuser2:26 pm 20 Sep 23


They really should focus on doing their job in the Assembly as currently they’re selling out to the Barr party.

The greens are looking at giving children with no life experience who have never paid tax before the vote?

I’m shocked… no really.

if only there were bigger and more important issues to worry about………..

HiddenDragon7:57 pm 19 Sep 23

The ACT Legislative Assembly too often reflects (and has for many years) the mentality of a student representative council – this blatantly self-interested try-on from the Greens would only accelerate that trend.

The Greens would be far more plausible in their claim to be the voice of the future if they stopped Green-washing the self-interested forces which are selling out the future of Australian kids and simultaneously racking up unsustainable levels of debt to pay for middle class welfare and bloated bureaucracies which future generations will struggle to sustain.

Just wondering3:32 pm 19 Sep 23

The limits placed on who can vote need to underpin a fair democratic representation. As has often been said, history is dotted with struggles of people to get the right to vote – the working class, women, under 21s, indigenous people and the list goes on. Every time there was resistance from those who already enjoyed their exclusive power to vote.
In the current world environment, things are changing fast, and sadly it’s mostly for the worse. With a rapidly aging population, the voting power-base is increasingly dominated by older generations. This is an unhealthy situation, particularly for the younger generations coming through who will have to live with the often backward-looking decisions being made.
When I think of all the times I have heard from older people that “climate change doesn’t bother me, I’ll be dead by then”, I wonder who really deserves the right to vote.

I don’t know that it actually matters in the ACT. The ACT is already a totalitarian one party state that doesn’t care about the rights of its people.

GrumpyGrandpa12:38 pm 19 Sep 23

Like many of The Greens’ policies, this is ideologically driven.

Excluding all of other more obvious reasons why this is a silly idea, I want to just talk about the the concept of “voluntary” voting.

Voluntary voting by its nature, doesn’t require engagement with the whole community, but seeks input from those with stronger or robust opinions. The Greens acknowledge this as part of their argument for this change; they want younger people to vote, because they believe they will be more climate orientated.

Simply, ideologically driven. It’d be akin to the ALP arguing that Union members should be allowed 2 votes and so on.

Yep, this is the Greens’ natural constituency — adolescents.

Idealistic, highly impressionable, obsessively concerned about peer group signalling, and passionately believe they’ve got the whole thing nailed without any background awareness to speak of. The perfect Green.

I used to be one too.

pink little birdie11:32 am 19 Sep 23

I don’t object to an opt in for this issue.
One of the biggest times of government decisions impacting on the day to day life of individuals is the transition from compulsory schooling to the workforce which includes further education. Young people should get a say in policy in this area.

I could also mean that a unit at schools on our systems of government could be held when it is relevant to them and increase understanding in this area.
Some parties may not like that though.

Tom McLuckie10:33 am 19 Sep 23

The very same party would have kittens if anyone suggested lowering the age of criminal responsibility and being tried as an adult for 16+. If we are proposing 16 year olds are mature enough to vote as young adults, then the law should also be reflective of that fact in terms of the criminal justice system. More Green party grandstanding on a non-issue.

I support your mission Johnathan Davis and admire your tenacity but like before, I don’t think you have a chance in hell!

This is just a blatant attempt to gerrymander by the Greens. The latest Essential poll (today) shows the overall primary vote for the Greens is 13% nationally, but support among the 18-34 group is at 25%.

The local Greens have been banging on about this since at least 2006.

They tried this in 2019, a year before the 2020 election, and this attempt is a year before the 2024 election.

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