Youth suffrage

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Youth suffrage, or children's suffrage, is the right of youth to vote and forms part of the broader youth rights movement. Until recently Iran had a voting age of 15; Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Cuba, Ecuador and Nicaragua have a voting age of 16; and Greece, Indonesia, East Timor, Sudan, and Seychelles have a voting age of 17.[1]

United States[edit]

In the United States, suffrage originally could not be denied on account of age only to those 21 years of age or older; this age is mentioned in the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The Twenty-sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution, ratified on July 1, 1971, lowered that age to 18. The primary impetus for this change was the fact that young men were being drafted to fight in the Vietnam War before they were old enough to vote. There have been many proposals to lower the voting age even further. In 2004, California State Senator John Vasconcellos (D-Santa Clara) proposed a youth suffrage constitutional amendment called Training Wheels for Citizenship that would give 14-year-olds a quarter vote, 16-year-olds a half vote, and 17-year-olds a full vote.[2]

In 2013, Takoma Park, Maryland became the first U.S. city to allow 16- and 17-year-olds the right to vote.[3][4] On January 5, 2015, Hyattsville, Maryland joined Takoma Park in lowering the voting age to 16.[5]


A proposal to lower the voting age from 18 to 16 was defeated in the 2007 Venezuelan constitutional referendum.

Arguments for and against youth suffrage[edit]

Arguments for[edit]

  • People of all ages are required to pay income and sales taxes; therefore, denying them the right to vote is taxation without representation.[6]
  • Youths are legally permitted to have sex[7] or drive a car in some countries, which are more dangerous and difficult than voting.[6]
  • Voter turnout among youth will improve if young people get in the habit of voting before they reach 18 and go to colleges far away from their state of residency, like it did in Germany when some states lowered their voting age for municipal elections.[8]
  • Education for and about democracy would be better served if there were no voting age.[9]
  • Government entitlements suppress fertility, which means the youth demographic is systematically suppressed, with no political power to offset the effect.[10]
  • Governments derive their just authority from the consent of the governed. To be legitimate, those who govern and those who legislate must be elected by the people, not a special subset of the people, such as those over the age of X years.

Arguments against[edit]

  • Some youth are believed by some to not to have sufficient understanding of the realities of life to participate in voting.[11]


Studies have found no differences in the quality of young voters' voting choices relative to older voters.[12][13]

A study of preregistration (registering individuals before they are eligible to vote) found that it was linked to higher youth turnout, and that politicians became more responsive to issues that the young have strong preferences on, such as higher education spending.[14] One study found that allowing 16-year-olds to vote led those voters to have "substantially higher levels of engagement with representative democracy (through voting) as well as other forms of political participation".[15][16]

Demeny voting[edit]

Demeny voting is the idea that parents would cast votes on behalf of their children thereby ensuring that the interests of children were properly accounted for in the voting system. Most young people do not support themselves financially and are reliant upon parents for support, thus parental voting power should be proportionate to the number of dependents, especially where government benefits are concerned, to appropriately counterbalance the interests of the childless.[17] Essentially, a case for "no taxation without representation." However, as children and their parents often have differing political, social, and economic interests, it is doubtful demeny voting would result in any significant advances of youth interests in government.

External links[edit]

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Caplan, Sheri J. Old Enough: How 18-Year-Olds Won the Vote & Why it Matters. Heath Hen, 2020. ISBN 978-1-7354-9300-8.
  • John B. Holbein and D. Sunshine Hillygus. 2020. Making Young Voters: Converting Civic Attitudes into Civic Action. Cambridge University Press.


  1. ^ Worldwide Efforts to Lower the Voting Age, National Youth Rights Association.
  2. ^ Californians consider granting 14-year-olds the right to vote, Bobby Caina Calvan, Boston Globe, April 25, 2004.
  3. ^ Lindsay A. Powers, The Gazette (14 May 2013). "Takoma Park grants 16-year-olds right to vote" – via
  4. ^ Shin, Annys (3 November 2013). "In Takoma Park, 16- and 17-year-old voters are poised to make history Tuesday" – via
  5. ^ Schneider, Elena (19 May 2018). "Students in Maryland Test Civic Participation and Win Right to Vote" – via
  6. ^ a b Vote at 16.
  7. ^ 'We can have sex, so why can't we vote?', The Guardian, Feb. 28, 2006.
  8. ^ Top Ten Reasons to Lower the Voting Age, National Youth Rights Association.
  9. ^ Hyde, Martin (2001). Democracy education and the Canadian voting age (Thesis). University of British Columbia.
  10. ^ "The Empty Playground and the Welfare State". National Review. 2012-05-29. Retrieved 2019-11-06.
  11. ^ Should 16-year-olds be allowed to vote?, BBC News (reader opinion), July 5, 2002.
  12. ^ Wagner, Markus; Johann, David; Kritzinger, Sylvia (2012). "Voting at 16: Turnout and the quality of vote choice". Electoral Studies. 31 (2): 372–383. doi:10.1016/j.electstud.2012.01.007. PMC 4020373. PMID 24850994.
  13. ^ Stiers, Dieter; Hooghe, Marc; Goubin, Silke (2020-02-01). "Are 16-year-olds able to cast a congruent vote? Evidence from a "voting at 16" initiative in the city of Ghent (Belgium)". Electoral Studies. 63: 102107. doi:10.1016/j.electstud.2019.102107. ISSN 0261-3794.
  14. ^ Bertocchi, Graziella; Dimico, Arcangelo; Lancia, Francesco; Russo, Alessia (2020). "Youth Enfranchisement, Political Responsiveness, and Education Expenditure: Evidence from the US". American Economic Journal: Economic Policy. 12 (3): 76–106. doi:10.1257/pol.20180203. ISSN 1945-7731.
  15. ^ Eichhorn, Jan (2018-04-01). "Votes At 16: New Insights from Scotland on Enfranchisement" (PDF). Parliamentary Affairs. 71 (2): 365–391. doi:10.1093/pa/gsx037. ISSN 0031-2290.
  16. ^ January 2nd; 2018|current-affairs; Elections; Politics, Party; Europe, government across; featured; Comments, Jan Eichhorn|2 (2018-01-02). "Beyond anecdotes on lowering the voting age: New evidence from Scotland". EUROPP. Retrieved 2020-02-13.
  17. ^ "The Empty Playground and the Welfare State". National Review. 2012-05-29. Retrieved 2019-11-06.