EDITORIAL: Lowered voting age only a matter of time

The B.C. Green Party leader has reignited an age-old question in the B.C. Legislature. Andrew Weaver introduced a private member’s bill last week to lower the provincial voting age to 16.

It’s the third time the Oak Bay-Gordon Head MLA has introduced such a bill – a voting age minimum already in effect in Scotland, Argentina, Austria and Brazil.

“Evidence from these jurisdictions shows that enfranchising these young voters has led to substantially higher levels of political participation,” said Weaver.

The Green Party leader’s proposal quickly met with heated opposition, with critics taking to the airwaves and commenting online. Most of those opposed to lowering the voting age suggested that youth at 16 don’t have the experience and knowledge necessary to cast an informed ballot. But that argument doesn’t hold water.

We don’t demand adults prove their comprehension of the issues before they’re allowed into the voting booth, and there is little doubt that ignorance knows no age boundaries. It’s not much different than the argument from a bygone era that democracy should be restricted to property owners.

The truth of the matter is that today’s youth have just as much at stake, if not more, in the decisions made by the current government. The age on their birth certificate should not make their views any less valid.

And those views are what this is really all about. The younger generation is much more likely to support things like environmental protection, marijuana legalization and increased government funding to deal with issues such as homelessness and transit – in other words, issues closely aligned with the left of the political spectrum. And that’s a major reason why the Green Party supports a lowered voting age and small-c conservatives oppose it.

The numbers bear this out. More than 170,000 elementary and high school students participated in the Student Vote program for the 2017 B.C. election. In the Student Vote results, the NDP formed government with 60 seats, with the Green Party gaining Official Opposition status with 14. The Liberals won 12 seats and one independent candidate was elected.

While views on the issue may be shaded by political preferences, the steady march of progress suggests that laws infringing on any group’s democratic rights will eventually be relegated to the pages of history.

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