How many of you were paying attention during the Liberal leadership race when the subject of lowering the voting age to 14 came up? To be more specific, the discussion centered on lowering the voting age for the purposes of selecting a leader, rather than lowering the age for a general election. Just the same, it's not a discussion that's going to go away anytime soon. Not here, not in Canada generally, and not even globally.
Several countries have addressed the issue of lowering the voting age for a general election. This includes those that have lowered the age to 18, and others that have discussed lowering it to age 16.
This is important if you want to remember that the idea is not as radical as it sounds if this is the first time you've heard about it. Maybe my memory is too long, but I'm pretty sure that, had I the right to vote at age 14, I would've supported such things as doing away with the military draft, lowering the drinking age to 14, lowering the age at which you can get a drivers license to 10, and abolishing all formal schooling unless it was still in place to give you the opportunity to socialize with the opposite sex eight hours a day. Same-sex too, if sthat happens to be the way you're wired.
Those who support lowering the voting age actually have some sound arguments to justify the discussion.
People are citizens from the time they are born. Many political decisions affect young people, even though they are generally not represented within government. I'm sure many young people would like to have some input into things such as the Young Offenders Act.
Even though 10 may be a bit young to have a driver's license, I'm betting they would like to have some say in that as well.
On the other hand, reducing the voting age to people as young as 14 would grant the ability to choose members of government to a group of people who are not overly represented within the workforce. The effect would be the opposite of taxation without representation.
Is it wise to grant an identified group of younger people the right to select government members to manage government funds that are largely collected from people who work?
I have no doubt that many young people purchase a lot of things and in that way contribute their share of taxes. Spending money does not fall into the same category as making money, unless you want to start deducting taxes from the money you give your children.
Limiting the ability to elect government members cannot solely be within the rights of those in the workforce. If that were the case, no one on welfare would be allowed to vote. You might argue that some senators would not be allowed to vote in that situation.
We would have to start splitting hairs on whether people actually earned the money and paid taxes on it, or granted it to themselves for expenses and paid no taxes on it.
And, if somebody bailed you out because you appropriated more money than you were supposed to, would that cheque count? Could you maybe vote twice?
This column can barely scratch the surface on the issues that are raised around the discussion of lowering the voting age. There are some ages that appear obvious. If you can join the military and fight for your country at an age lower than when you are allowed to vote, that seems a tad unfair. There is some irony in coming back from a war zone with PTSD and a drinking problem at an age when you have no say in determining in what the drinking age should legally be set at.
You might have noticed that I avoided the whole question of a biological imperative related to the ability to apply critical thinking to one's decisions. While we are told that most humans do not reach that stage until somewhere between 19 to 25, the evidence doesn't always support that. Some young adults can reach it sooner. Some very old adults never reach it at all.
If critical thought were necessary for someone to be elected, my bet is on voter turnout reaching an all-time low, seeing as the electorate would likely fail to meet a minimum standard when it comes to applying critical thinking to the issues.