Together with the Estonian National Youth Council on 30.5.2018 we organized the first international Vote@16 seminar on the occasion of Estonian and Finnish 100-year celebrations as well as lowering of the voting right to 16 in Estonian municipal elections in 2017. The seminar was dedicated to exchanging experiences related to lowering the voting age to 16 on European level. The seminar raised democracy sustainability, intergenerational justice and citizenship education issues. We had as speakers prominent international youth representatives, politicians, educators and other professionals interested in advancing the youth democratic values.
Please find the seminar programme and live stream playback here: Vote@16 seminar 30.5.2018
Seminar videos are available here: Vote@16 seminar 30.6.2018 videos
"Why vote at 16" video by the European Youth Forum
Lowering the voting right to 16 years of age is the current EU recommendation and it is in line with most of the youth organizations' strategies in Europe. Lowering the voting age to 16 has already materialized in Austria since 2007 in all elections, in Estonia since 2017 in municipal elections, in Germany since 1996 and 2014 in some regional elections, and it is in force in Belgium for referendums, in Finland for church elections, and in some parts of the UK for local elections. Please see more information at the European Youth Forum Vote@16 website. There are successful results of lowering the voting age to 16 also in some other parts of the World - please see more information at the CIA World Factbook on suffrage information page and in Wikipedia "voting age" page. There is also on-going active discussion about lowering the voting age to 16 also in many other parts of the World, for example in the USA.
Children's Voice Association aims to act as mediator and activator of discussions in this process between various interested organizations - and helping them to unite forces in order to achieve the goal of lowering the voting age to 16. We also take part in developing special democratic education programme for school children aged 15-16 so that they could be better prepared for making their impact as active citizens when their time to vote comes. Our current focus area of work in this respect is in Finland but we also actively seek to promote discussions in other countries, especially in Europe.
We would like to draw the decision-makers' and public attention to the fact that democratic decision making - and lowering the voting age (to 16 or even lower) - can take various forms - not only in terms of which elections the younger age can apply to. Decision-makers should make a broad assessment of factors when deciding which electorate should be acceptable in each specific country. In some countries voting at the age of 16-17 is voluntary, in some it is conditional on being married or employed. In some countries married citizens regardless of age can vote, and in some old people (over 70 in Argentina) have only a voluntary right to vote. Similarly, election of the pope in the Vatican city is restricted to cardinals who are younger than 80. Furthermore, in some countries certain public servants like police and military workers have no right to vote. In Estonian electronic i-voting it is possible to change the opinion as many times as one wishes - until the final deadline of the vote. And finally, in the United Kingdom the proxy voting tradition dates back to 16th century: electors in the U.K. can act as proxies for two people to whom they are not directly related or for any number of electors if they are directly related to those electors.
The graph below reflects the voting activity by age groups in 2015 in Finnish parliamentary elections - but this is a very typical picture for many European countries with aging population: the young are less active than the old. And over time during the past 50 years the young have become less active than before while the size of the older population has increased.
The Economist and the World Economic Forum, among many others, have well described the risks to democracy, which the current unwillingness of the young to vote is posing:
"Millennials across the rich world are failing to vote. Democracies are at risk if young people continue to shun the ballot box." The Economist, February 4, 2017.
"How to teach citizenship in schools? Governments are failing to prepare the young to use their votes well." The Economist, February 2, 2017.
"Poorer than their parents. What's gone wrong for this generation?" World Economic Forum 2017 meeting materials.
Please see blow the links to the selected youth organizations, which promote lowering the voting age to 16: