16-year-old voters

Opinions are rife on the hotly contested topic of 16-year-old voters.

Little clarity surrounds the qualities a voter should possess, and at what age youth should be given the right to have a say in the governance of Australia.

Lowering the voting age could alter the power dynamic in democracy. With a larger number of young voters, youth issues could be placed in the spotlight, argue the proponents.

When Australia lowered the voting age from 21 to 18 in 1973, the argument was that if 18-year-olds could go to war for their country then surely, they had the right to vote.

Now that 16-year-olds who work must pay tax, aren’t they then also entitled to a say in how their tax money is spent?  It seems inconsistent that with the age of consent placed at 16, young people can become parents, learn to drive, work full time, serve in the military and consent to medical procedures, but not vote.

Young people will inherit the challenges faced currently, like climate change, finding the deposit for a home, government deficit, and a rise in inequality, but those against lowering the voting age say youngsters lack the life experience and can be easily coerced by parents and teachers.

Neuroscience has indicated that the prefrontal cortex of the brain undergoes massive changes and development in the adolescent years with these changes only being complete in the early 20s. This is why teens may promise to do one thing then be easily swayed into doing something completely different. Voters need to make responsible and reasonable decisions.

 The 2016 report, of the National Assessment Program on Civics and Citizens, showed a consistent decline in proficiency of students. 62 % were below standard in Year 10, indicating that schools are not preparing students with sufficient knowledge about the Australian Government system, and democratic and judiciary processes.

If voters do not understand democratic processes, why should they be involved in policies and issues affecting the nation?

Have your say today.