Hot Take - 16 Year Old Voters Are a Bad Idea

Originally Published on Medium - March 14, 2018

I have seen many people discuss the pros and cons of lowering the legal voting age in Canada or in specific provinces. I think this is a bad idea for a few reasons.

I can remember what I was like when I was sixteen. I had far better things to do with my time than to even pay attention in my civics class, let alone read up to have a well-informed vote. By no means do I think there are no engaged 16-year-old’s, but I am also very aware of how my peers were. Even when I first got the vote at 18, I had a hard time being properly informed.

Secondly, I think rather than focusing on creating informed 16-year-old voters, we should first focus on creating informed 18-year-old voters, informed 25-year-old voters, informed 40-year-old voters. Perhaps we should focus on getting people to vote at all. Turnout in the last Ontario election was about 52%.

A cynic would also point out that younger voters stereotypically tend to be left wing, thus it isn’t surprising that these pushes tend to come from left wing parties. There unfortunately is no such thing as altruism in politics right now.

I also want to point out that you do not need to have a vote to make political change, you do not need to have a vote to make an impact. The youth in the US Gun debate right now are a perfect example. Perhaps down the line, there will be evidence to prove this is a good idea worth properly investigating.

In my ideal world, 16-year-olds would have the vote. They would be civically engaged, and have the education and critical thinking skills to make their own decisions based on a developed set of their own values. But we do not live in an ideal world. To say that giving 16-year-olds the vote will have them be more engaged is foolhardy in my opinion. Why would it work for them, if it didn’t work for the rest of us?

David BirnbaumVoting, Democracy