Dozens of experts are calling for the voting age in the ACT to be reduced to 16 and are backing a Bill that could soon be passed into law.
In a submission to the government, 30 academics and advocates say they strongly support the Electoral Amendment Bill 2021 introduced into the Legislative Assembly of the Australian Capital Territory (ACT). If passed, the Bill will reduce the voting age in the ACT from 18 years to 16 years.
One of the lead authors, Associate Professor Faith Gordon, from The Australian National University, said young people are wrongly stereotyped as lacking political and moral judgement. She says these stereotypes are not grounded in any credible evidence and are due to misrepresentation in the media.
“You can apply to join the defence forces at 16, you can have sexual intercourse legally at 17 and you can be charged with criminal offences, but you can’t vote,” Associate Professor Gordon said.
“Young people already make a host of important contributions to socio-economic and political activities, and have many rights and responsibilities in society.
“If young people can do so much at 16, why don’t they deserve the basic right to vote?”
The researchers say the legislation would be consistent with moves under way in many jurisdictions around the world to reduce the voting age and international human rights law.
“A large number of countries including Argentina, Austria, Bosnia, Brazil, Cuba, Timor-Leste, Ecuador, Estonia, Greece, Indonesia, Israel, Malta, and Nicaragua reduced the voting age to 17, or in some cases to 16,” Associate Professor Gordon said.
The researchers’ submission outlines evidence from rigorous social science research that shows the value of expanding voting to younger people.
“It is a basic human right,” Associate Professor Gordon said.
“Lowering the voting age to 16 years extends basic citizenship, democratic and human rights to more young people. It gives effect to the ACT Human Rights Act of 2004 by extending the right to vote to more young people.
“This legislation will strengthen the democratic culture of the ACT and boost voter turnout rates now and in the future.
“Reducing the voting age will also better align with the values of fostering an inclusive society by promoting youth participation and acknowledging the right to be heard in all matters affecting their lives.”
“If passed, this legislation will demonstrate strong official commitment to youth participation, and strongly support the ACT’s status as a jurisdiction that truly recognises human rights.”
The submission can be found through the ACT Legislative Assembly.
Top image: Tracey Nearmy/ANU