Should 16 and 17 year olds be given the vote? They think so

Lottie Twyford 3 December 2021 139
Tara Craemer-Banks, Johnathan Davis and Dr Justin Barker.

Tara Craemer-Banks (aged 16), ACT Greens spokesperson for young people Johnathan Davis and executive director of the Youth Coalition of the ACT, Dr Justin Barker. Photo: Lottie Twyford.

Lyneham High student Tara Craemer-Banks thinks she should be able to vote in ACT elections.

So do the ACT Greens, who introduced a bill to extend the right to vote to 16 and 17 year olds in the Legislative Assembly today (2 December).

“I do genuinely believe that people of my age are capable of being responsible voters. We’re engaged, and we care about politics, and I think it’s unjust for us not to have a say in the issues that will affect us,” says Ms Craemer-Banks, aged 16.

Of greatest concern to her are climate change, housing affordability and employment.

Not being able to vote makes her feel “powerless”, she says, and while she participates in many political activities such as protesting and attending political party meetings, it’s not enough.

“We can’t shift who’s actually going into government.”

climate change protests

Young people say protesting isn’t enough political participation. They want to vote. Photo: File.

Ms Craemer-Banks is a politically engaged young person, but she says all of her peers, even those less interested in politics, would take the opportunity to vote if they had it.

As she points out, “there are older people who don’t care about politics and voting, too”.

According to Ms Craemer-Banks, the opportunity to learn about voting and the ACT political system would encourage those who may not otherwise engage with it to do so.

Executive Director of the Youth Coalition of the ACT Dr Justin Barker agrees.

“When you’re an adult, you don’t get to systematically address that education gap.”

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He says opening voting to young people while they are still at school means they can be provided with a “systematic and standardised education on the electoral system at the time that they’re going to be participating in it”.

“At 18 years old, young people are everywhere. Some are on gap years, some are completing apprenticeships, some are employed or unemployed. There’s no systematic approach to helping them engage with voting.”

At 16, Dr Barker thinks it’s possible.

But he also says there’s a common misconception that young people can’t make sensible decisions.

“Research has now proven that the 16 to 17-year-old age cohort can make informed, confirmed decisions in a rational, unpressured environment.”

Under the gaze of their peers and in highly pressurised situations, he notes that’s not the case. But voting is the former, not the latter.

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A recent survey by the Youth Coalition found the majority of young people support extending voting rights.

The ACT Greens have long supported lowering the voting age. ACT Greens MLA Kerrie Tucker first introduced legislation to extend voting to younger people in 1996.

A bill put forward today by Greens spokesperson for young people Johnathan Davis and Greens spokesperson for democracy Andrew Braddock will now go through a public inquiry process before being debated by the Assembly next year.

Mr Davis says he believes democracy is more robust when more people have their say at the ballot box.

“Young people deserve to be represented in the vote and their values deserve to be represented in the Assembly.”

He says young people already handle responsibilities such as getting a drivers license, working and paying taxes, making decisions on their education and medical procedures, and could handle this additional one.

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Legislative barriers in the ACT mean voting, including for this young cohort, would be mandatory.

A $20 fine is currently incurred if someone doesn’t vote, but Mr Davis is hopeful this could be lowered to $10.

Mr Davis disagrees with the argument that the Greens only want to lower the voting age to 16 because young people are likely to vote on the left side of politics.

He notes the Canberra Liberals have previously said they have the fastest growing membership of young people in the country and told the Assembly today he commended Canberra Liberals’ MLA Mark Parton for his engagement with young people via the social media platform TikTok.

But as for who Ms Craemer-Banks would vote for, she’s got that figured out too.

“The Greens.”

What's Your Opinion?

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139 Responses to Should 16 and 17 year olds be given the vote? They think so
Denby Angus Denby Angus 12:04 am 14 Dec 21

I'm constantly delighted and impressed by the thoughtfulness and eloquence of young people with passionate views about the world in which they work and love and play. I don't agree with all their ideas and they won't all vote the way I do but they deserve a vote because they pay taxes, they have employers and work colleagues and significant political decisions are made every day that shape the world they will grow in. Some of their ideas may be half formed or idealistic, but their passion and their voices should be heard. I haven't heard anyone say we should remove the vote from older people on the basis of diminishing capacity or for having simple or malicious values. A diversity of ideas is healthy for our democracy.

Liz Hampton Liz Hampton 5:45 pm 04 Dec 21


Paul Magarey Paul Magarey 9:29 am 04 Dec 21

If they can pay tax, they should get to vote. No taxation without representation!

Capital Retro Capital Retro 8:52 am 04 Dec 21

“Most of the boomers on FB have no clue how the world works.”

Typical of the contempt we receive from young people these days.

We do have all the clues actually, we created it.

Geoff Roberts Geoff Roberts 7:51 am 04 Dec 21

Just an overt ploy to ensure the Greenies increase their vote and power. Absolutely NOT.

Andrew Nelson Andrew Nelson 7:01 pm 03 Dec 21

They don’t know Jack. Kids should be kids and not used as political pawns.

    Peter Zimmermann Peter Zimmermann 8:14 pm 03 Dec 21

    Andrew Nelson agree....the Greens can‘t get enough adult votes so they try to get the Greta Thunbergs ☹️

    Jo Hann Jo Hann 7:34 am 04 Dec 21

    Andrew Nelson you suddenly understand the world at 18? Most of the boomers on FB have no clue how the world works.

Chris Smith Chris Smith 5:32 pm 03 Dec 21

No way , they can't even hold a conversation without looking at their phone every 30 seconds .

    James Fellows James Fellows 6:27 am 04 Dec 21

    You should see what the politicians are doing during question time... and they're the ones making the decisions!

Acton Acton 3:34 pm 03 Dec 21

If 16 and 17 years olds are to be allowed to vote, they should also be allowed to stand as candidates and form a party. So then we may have a Schoolies Party voted into government and running the ACT.

TimboinOz TimboinOz 2:30 pm 03 Dec 21

18 years is early enough.

Tim Kerslake Tim Kerslake 1:35 pm 03 Dec 21

I think the issue needs visiting at least. After all, you’re old enough to work and pay taxes at 15. If you’re considered mature enough to be able to work and pay taxes, a discussion should include whether that maturity extends to having a say in how that money is spent. You’re also considered mature enough to join the military at 16 years and 6 months, the question should then be asked whether you should have a say on who gets to send you to war if/when the time comes.

David P David P 1:29 pm 03 Dec 21

Some young people are indeed switched-on enough, but the majority are nowhere near mature enough for this responsibility. In fact, 18 is too young. (That 18-year-olds can be sent to war is a separate issue).

Keran Niquet Keran Niquet 12:50 pm 03 Dec 21

Definitely NOT.

Shane Worthington Shane Worthington 12:17 pm 03 Dec 21

I think the question is not nuanced enough. The fundamental question should be ‘do adolescents have the capacity and capability to display rational and pragmatic reasoning?’ Much of the scholarly evidence suggests yes. If that is the case, then sure, why not?

Simply saying should x or y be allowed to vote will generally only get you a binary response which doesn’t help anyone.

    Andrew Braddock MLA - Member for Yerrabi Andrew Braddock MLA - Member for Yerrabi 9:12 pm 03 Dec 21

    Shane Worthington I definitely acknowledge the point about the binary nature. We however can’t start setting tests for people’s understanding of the democratic system so unfortunately we have to draw a line using age.

Peter Quinn Peter Quinn 12:14 pm 03 Dec 21

No, they generally react to media releases hype

Linda Stapleton Linda Stapleton 11:37 am 03 Dec 21

I think 16 and 17 year olds have enough to deal with in life, school, learning to survive teenage years and school, parents and social life, without throwing them into a world where they then have to decide what to do about the world. Yes learn, have an opinion, but keep the pressure of being an adult, off them for just a bit longer. Let them enjoy their teens.

    Andrew Braddock MLA - Member for Yerrabi Andrew Braddock MLA - Member for Yerrabi 9:13 pm 03 Dec 21

    Linda Stapleton should we hold off on letting them learn how to drive a car, join the ADF, or have sex too?

Mandy Truman Mandy Truman 10:36 am 03 Dec 21

Yes if they want to

Heidi Blunden Heidi Blunden 9:12 am 03 Dec 21

Absolutely not.

    Dan Rayner Dan Rayner 10:01 am 03 Dec 21

    Heidi you seem so certain. Why not?

    Heidi Blunden Heidi Blunden 3:35 pm 03 Dec 21

    Dan Rayner undeveloped brains

    Dan Rayner Dan Rayner 3:42 pm 03 Dec 21

    Heidi so they shouldn’t be tried in court as adults then?

    Heidi Blunden Heidi Blunden 3:43 pm 03 Dec 21

    Dan Rayner they aren't

    Dan Rayner Dan Rayner 3:48 pm 03 Dec 21

    Heidi Blunden sorry, I meant they are criminally culpable for their actions from the age of 10 in the ACT. If they have under developed brains why should they be responsible for their actions in a court?

    Dan Rayner Dan Rayner 3:49 pm 03 Dec 21

    Heidi plus, human brains stop developing at roughly 25.

    We’ve had politicians run for parliament younger than that.

Angela Davey Angela Davey 9:12 am 03 Dec 21

You’d have much better government policy for young people and the climate if they could vote

Glenn Hayman Glenn Hayman 9:06 am 03 Dec 21

Old people and 'conservatives' don't want young people to vote. I wonder why?

    Stephen Hirst Stephen Hirst 10:07 am 03 Dec 21

    Because they know the young generation (GenZ) believe in things like climate change and actually wanting to take action. The BBA, Tony and John of Canberra types who post on social media platform and other platforms like the Times comments sections would be crying foul, and saying it's all leftie crap.

    Glenn Hayman Glenn Hayman 10:50 am 03 Dec 21

    Stephen Hirst you're spot on there!

Oscar Mike Oscar Mike 8:36 am 03 Dec 21

Surely Labor aren’t that nervous are they?

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