3 December 2021

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

| Lottie Twyford
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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.”

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Capital Retro8:52 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.

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.

18 years is early enough.

Tim Kerslake1:35 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.

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).

Surely Labor aren’t that nervous are they?

Maybe, because some young people are very cluey. So give them an intelligence test before enrollment. Would you vote Greens? Yes = automatic ineligibility on the basis of immaturity and stupidity.

There’s a reason for life experience giving you the ability to make sound decisions.

Of course the Greens want to give 16-17 year old’s the vote – they’re old enough for some responsibilities to be sure, but have been sufficiently idealistically brainwashed by the Labour/Greens propaganda machine and indoctrination of the school system, but not experienced enough yet to have actually had to deal with, or be shaped by, real life, and real issues, on their own. They haven’t had to have families, pay household bills, or manage a budget, pay a mortgage, work for a lifetime, etc, etc.

HiddenDragon7:27 pm 02 Dec 21

Another step on the road to a Green-Labor ACT government – so interesting to see whether ACT Labor are sufficiently short-sighted to go down the rabbit hole on this one.

The Greens know the voting age won’t be changed but they throw out this little teaser periodically to try to disenfranchise the youth and secure their future support.

It’s a simple strategy. We’re interested in your future but the major parties aren’t. If they were, they’d let you vote. Remember how they ignored you, when they say you are old enough.

How can you say they are trying to disenfranchise youth when this is literally a bill to enfranchise youth who are at present disenfranchised…

All for it! Why deny a voice to someone who actively participates in the community? I reject the argument that they do not understand the issues being voted on as quite the generalisation. There are swathes of voting adults who would likely fair much worse were they tested on such subject matter.

Capital Retro6:35 pm 02 Dec 21

I can see your point Mikey because criminals and other lowlife also “actively participate in the community” thanks to government policies of going soft on them.

The majority of young people under 18 are not capable of understanding the complex issues that are being debated and voted on within the parliament.

I’d be OK with allowing people under 18 to vote but only if they completed a school course as described in the article as part of the curriculum and then had to apply and pass a test outside of the school system to show their actual interest and engagement. Similar to a driver’s licence arrangement.

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

The fact that there is also a lot of older people who fall in to this category, isn’t an argument to extend voting to ever younger people. It’s actually a really good argument that we should limit it.

But alas, even getting people to show ID at a polling place is somehow too onerous and disenfranchising according to some.

“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.”

Sure, and for anyone that actually believes this, I have a rather large bridge to sell you.

Greens have been pushing this issue since 1996, and just can’t accept that the people of the ACT don’t agree.

Capital Retro5:07 pm 02 Dec 21

I noticed a 17yo female in the neighborhood driving around with a flat tyre and I drew her attention to it. She was totally unaware and asked me what should she do. I said: “change the tyre and take the punctured one to a repairer”. The silent response from her indicated she didn’t have a clue as to what I was talking about so I said: “I’ll change the tyre for you so watch how it is done”. Having completed that I told her where the nearest repairer was and she simply drove off and didn’t even say thanks.

The points I am making are would you give the vote to someone who can’t change a flat tyre and can’t even say thanks?

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