We let 16 year-olds drive. Why not let them vote?
Joss Arnott // Contributor
Recently, there’s been a lot of talk about lowering the provincial voting age to 16 in BC. While it looks like that won’t happen anytime soon, it raises an interesting question. Should teens be given the right to vote? A lot of people say no. They say young people aren’t informed enough, or that since they don’t pay taxes, they shouldn’t get a say in how that money gets spent. They use excuses that make perfect sense until you take a moment to think about them.
Saying young people aren’t informed in 2020 is honestly laughable. Sure, the average 16-year-old doesn’t know much about the minutiae of government, but I challenge you to find an adult that’s any better. When the mayor of Victoria, Lisa Helps, was asked what she thinks about the lack of political know-how among teenagers, she had this to say: “This is true of all of our residents, having nothing to do with age.” Most people are completely clueless when it comes to the inner workings of government; it’s a miracle when over half the country actually shows up to vote.
Sixteen-year-olds make up for their limited political knowledge with passion for the things they care about. You only need to look back to the fall of 2019 to see young people taking action. The Global School Strike for the Climate was a rallying call for young people to show a united front and raise awareness against climate change, all brought about and inspired by sixteen-year-old Greta Thunberg.
Allowing young people to vote and make their voices heard can only be a good thing. What’s the worst possible outcome of letting 16-year-olds vote? A minority vaping party? Honestly… I think that’s worth the risk. If you’re going to let teenagers drive around in metal, two-ton spinning death traps (colloquially known as cars) with only the minimal instruction from their parents and a passing grade on a multiple-choice test to guide them, I think you can let them vote in an election. By galvanizing people into voting at an earlier age, not only do you empower them, but you also create a habit. By introducing the idea of voting earlier in life, you make people more likely to keep voting. It’s like getting a check-up at the doctor or crying on Valentine’s Day. Eventually, it just becomes normal.
Sixteen-year-olds voting isn’t even that radical of an idea. Eleven countries including Brazil, Austria, and Scotland have a voting age of 16. There are also a slew of smaller province-like regions within countries such as Germany that have a voting age of 16. When the BC Greens ran for office in 2017, one of their campaign promises was to reduce the voting age to 16. Since they took office, the legislation has been brought up and shot down on three separate occasions. While the provincial government is looking at lowering the registration age to 16, there are no plans to allow 16-year-olds to actually vote anytime soon.
Young people have always and will always want to change the world; it’s just how we work. Voting is important, but it is not the only way that you can enact change. Should young people be given the right to vote? Hell yes. Does the government denying them that right equal the end of the world? Hell no. Fight on, young activists. Fight on.