Question: why should children have voting rights if they are not well enough informed about societal issues, not mature enough as decision-makers and not enough responsible?
Answer: We believe 16 year old children are already mature enough to vote for themselves. The reasons are outlined well by the European Youth Forum.
We also believe that all citizens should have voting rights independently of their age or mental ability. The modern understanding of democracy is an inclusive one: our moral and values guide us to find ways in which all citizens could have their say and make impact on society. At the moment all mentally disabled people, for example, have voting rights - and so should children. Both deserve the possibility to be represented in elections by proxy votes.
Internet-age children are much better informed and socially networked compared to the previous generation of citizens. At the same time, not all adults are "enough informed", "enough prepared", "enough mature" and "enough responsible". How much is "enough" informed & prepared is a philosophical question. Sokrates used to question the principles of democratic inclusiveness (please see his critique below) because he believed that only well educated and informed people were supposed to have the right to vote. Nevertheless, the modern understanding of democracy is an inclusive one: and we believe that 100% inclusivity should be made possible - so that all citizens could participate directly or indirectly.
Sokrates on democracy:
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
"Should children be given the vote?" TED talk by professor Miles Corak
Question: Who these "dedicated people" should be who could represent children in voting?
Answer: Children aged 16 and above need to get a direct voting right for themselves. Children's Voice Association does not take a view on who these "dedicated people" should be who would represent under 16 ear old children. We believe specialists' opinions need to be heard and public opinion polls need to be conducted to find an appropriate practical solution for each country. There are several options ranging from parents/caretakers to kindergarten/school personnel or specialized social/research workers - all these can vary also depending on the age and family situation of the child.
Article 12 of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child says that all children have the right to be heard and Article 5 says that its the parents' responsibility to make sure all children's rights are executed:
These Articles have been interpreted so that parents (or other caretakers) should be given the proxy voting rights for their children - for example 1/2 of a vote for mother and 1/2 of the vote for father, - or split in some other way (numerous options have been presented in scientific research). Parents make an extensive amount of decisions on behalf of their children - including the one concerning child's citizenship - so it could be natural to accept that parents would be able to vote and make societal impact on behalf of their children. Giving parents the representative voting rights for their children has also historically been supported - as the emergence of children's voting rights was closely linked to the emergence of women's/mothers' voting rights.
However, we acknowledge that there are several challenges with parents voting for their children:
Some youngsters are opposed to being represented by their parents.
Some parents take actively part in voting while the others do not, thus putting their children in a disadvantaged situation compared to those children whose parents do vote.
Some parents might potentially act in immoral way and misuse their children's voting rights for their own benefit.
Therefore we believe that it would be best if country -specific specialists' opinions were collected and public opinion polls were conducted to find the most suitable practical solution for children's representation in voting events. Would it be parents or some societal representation solution - or a hybrid - each country needs to decide for itself. There can be several solutions possible. Most importantly: all citizen - including children - need to be represented. But how it is done is just a practical issue, which can be tested & slightly altered over time to achieve an optimal solution.
Question: wouldn't it be more efficient to solve children's problems by other means than giving them voting rights?
Answer: Children as well as adults have an endless amount of "problems". We are not aiming to solve them one-by-one. We believe that as long as the democratic voting mechanism in society exists - it should cover / take into consideration all citizens' interests in an equal way. We want to ensure democracy sustainability and extend the voting rights to all citizen (about 30% of citizen in democratic countries today are under 18 and have no voting rights). By doing this we believe we would correct the important decision-making mechanism (voting mechanism) in society which would subsequently result in higher-quality top societal decision-making in children's and youngsters' interests. The focus of decision-making would thus shift somewhat towards the younger generation - and take their interests better into account. This would in turn solve many problems of children and youngsters for years to come.
Question: isn't it a big risk that if 16-year old children were given voting rights while still living at home then parents would influence their voting outcomes too much?
Answer: Children who learn voting habits while still living at home are more likely to vote more actively also in the future. This is supported by research. Parents influence a big number of children's decisions and it is natural that children's opinions in many cases are similar to their parents'. We do not see that the exchange of opinions with parents should be seen in such a purely negative way and a reason for not giving children the right to vote. The exchange of opinions with parents can also be very positive in many ways which enhance learning, argumentation ability and decision-making.
Question: wouldn't it be against "one man - one vote" principle if parents or any other "dedicated people" get to cast extra votes for children?
Answer: Children are also citizen. We interpret the "one man - one vote" principle so that children should also be given voting rights on equal terms with other citizen.
Question: would it be unfair if parents represented children? Not all children want to be represented by their parents.
Answer: Parents make numerous decisions for their children - whether children like it or not - including the one regarding child's citizenship, knowledge of home language(s), primary & sometimes higher education, food, clothing, etc. At certain age children start gaining some degrees of independence from their parents - and at some point (usually teenage and above) some children become conscious about their lack of will to be represented by their parents. We acknowledge this drawback and suggest that proper societal discussion needs to be undertaken to find solutions which would fit the majority and also kids in special difficult family situations.
Question: would it be unfair if some teachers or social workers represented children? Many children trust their parents best and don't want to be represented by some social structures if they have good parents.
Answer: If social structures were established to represent children in voting situations then such solution would inevitably be perceived as "detached" lives and interests of some families, who would prefer to represent their children's interests themselves. We acknowledge this drawback and suggest that proper societal discussion needs to be undertaken to find solutions which would fit the majority and also kids in special difficult family situations.
Question: wouldn't representative/proxy voting create a lot of cheating possibilities, buying & pooling of large amounts of votes in favor of some candidates?
Answer: We believe it is possible to set proxy voting rules so that such massive cheating possibilities are avoided. In Great Britain for example there are proxy voting traditions dating back to the 17th century and no major problems have so far occurred. In Britain people are allowed to represent as many direct family members as they want in voting and maximum 2 non-relatives. This limits the possibility to pool a large amount of votes by some people who want to cheat.
Question: what other solutions are possible apart from proxy votes being given to parents?
Answer: There can be numerous societal representation solutions - ranging from nurseries to schools and to appointing dedicated social workers, research institutes studying children's interests & opinions etc. And all these can vary also depending on the age and family situation of the child. The good side of them would be equal treatment of all children in a given country. The downside is of course that such institutions would inevitably be perceived impersonal and detached from real lives of some families, who would prefer to represent their children's interests themselves.
Question: would it be unfair for families with children to have "extra votes" in society? Would large families get a disproportionately large weight in decision-making if parents represented their children?
Answer: It is first of all a moral question for each society - to give each citizen a vote or not. We believe each citizen should be represented by a vote without exceptions. If parents are given the proxy votes for their children then those votes belonging to children do not belong to their parents. And if parents act morally correctly they should cast children's votes in children's interests, not their own interests.
In most aging societies - where birth rates are below sustainable 2x - the proportion of large families is marginally small. For example in Finland the share of "lestadians" in population is below 2% and their number is not growing, because most lestadian children choose to assimilate with Finnish culture. Thus their impact on decision-making would be insignificantly small. However, we believe that giving votes to all citizens is relevant in both aging societies, where decision-making has long ago shifted to older generation, and in developing countries, where the proportion of kids & youth is large - and proper resources need to be allocated for education and upbringing.
From societal resource allocation perspective it should of course be considered, that the proportion of large families and children/youth in each country is different. Also the pension, social security and tax systems are different. All of these could and should consider whether families have children or not - i.e. whether people bear the burden or not of contributing to the country's population growth & renewal.
Question: Are parents able to represent children correctly? What if they don't represent children's opinions correctly by mistake?
Answer: We all might make mistakes sometimes - both for ourselves and for our children. It is human to make mistakes. However, there are no grounds to think that parents would systematically misrepresent their children's opinions because parents in most cases love and care for their children's future - and have motivation to represent children's interests correctly. Thus, doing mistakes in terms of misrepresenting children's voting interests is a marginal issue - and much less harmful solution for the society as a whole than not allowing parents (or other dedicated people) at all to vote on behalf of their children (resulting in about 30% of citizen's interests not being represented).
Overall, parents make numerous decisions for their children - whether children like it or not - including the one regarding child's citizenship, knowledge of home language(s), primary & sometimes higher education, food, clothing, etc. At certain age children start gaining some degrees of independence from their parents - and at some point (usually teenage and above) some children become conscious about their lack of will to be represented by their parents. Some children also start questioning their upbringing at large - whether its "right" or "wrong". We acknowledge that such discussion can be endless - but it should not stop us finding some practical solution to children's representation in voting situations.
Question: wouldn't parents or other "dedicated people" misuse children's votes in their own interests intentionally?
Answer: Parents in most cases love and care for their children and therefore are motivated to represent children's interests correctly. Thus, the cases of intentional misrepresentation of voting rights should be marginal. For example, we would expect parents casting children's votes for the benefit of such candidates who support education and other sustainability -related issues.
The vote which parents or other "dedicated people" cast on their children's behalf is a separate vote and not tied to their own vote. It is a moral question to use children's proxy votes correctly and separately. It can not be ruled out that some "dedicated people" would either intentionally misuse their children's votes or unintentionally misunderstand their use, but - again - we believe such cases would be marginal as long as proxy voting rules sufficiently limit the amount of votes each "dedicated person" can accumulate. Allowing children to be represented in voting would create a bigger virtue than the harm that some marginal misrepresentation cases could create.