Kate Hawkesby: Should 16-year-olds be allowed to vote?

Author
Kate Hawkesby,
Section
Opinion,
Publish Date
Friday, 20 September 2019, 9:46AM
Whatever happened to allowing kids to be kids and enjoy their childhood, writes Kate Hawkesby. Photo / File

Should 16 year olds be allowed to vote?

They can leave school, have sex, get married, learn to drive, so why can't they vote?

This is the question the 'Make it 16' campaigners are asking as they head to Parliament tonight to fight for their rights.

They say politicians are blocking the voices of 16 and 17 year-olds and that it's discriminatory.

They want to challenge it through the court system, they argue the current voting age of 18 is unjustified discrimination and inconsistent with the Bill of Rights Act.

They have a supporter, Children's Commissioner Judge Andrew Becroft agrees 16 year-olds should be able to vote. He says it would enhance voter turnout and engage young people earlier which is no bad thing.

He agrees they have the right to have their voices heard, and that we need to take youth participation seriously.

I don't doubt for one minute that the young campaigners here are capable, articulate, smart operatives, who're politically aware and engaged with the responsibilities of civic duty.

But I'd argue they're the exception, not the rule.

Most 16 year-olds are not this engaged.

Most 16 year-olds are not doing things that would engender them to feel passionately about voting.

Most of them are in school, working for exams, hanging with their friends at weekends, learning to drive, deciding if they want to go to Uni or not navigating the rollercoaster ride of being a teenager.

They are not paying mortgages and bills, running households, raising children, studying political manifestos and working out how much tax they should pay.

That's not to say 16 year-olds aren't capable of these things, it's just most of them are not interested.

And whatever happened to allowing kids to be kids and enjoy their childhood?

They have a whole long life ahead of them to angst about inflation and GDP and how climate change will impact infrastructure..

They have so much adulting ahead of them, what's the rush?

18 used to be widely accepted as the age of adulthood, then it was 21, the other day I wrote about latest research out of Britain showing most kids don't feel like an adult until they're 26.

They're staying at home longer, they're spending longer in education, they're in less of a rush.

So given that, why pull the voting age forward?

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