Youthful appeal

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At a time when it's getting harder to attract people to the ballot box, federal New Democratic Party Leader Jack Layton just may be on to something when he suggests lowering the voting age to 16.
When you think about it, 16-year-olds are old enough to drive, pay income taxes, join the military and be tried in court as an adult. But, they can't vote for those they feel would be best to lead the country or province.
"If we feel they are responsible to drive a car 100 kilometres down a highway - with an approaching car also travelling 100 kilometres and they're going to pass within three feet of each other - that's a lot of responsibility," Layton said. "If we think they're responsible to drive a car, they ought to be responsible enough to participate in driving the nation."
Despite the comments, it doesn't appear lowering the voting age has much public support or that of government. An Angus-Reid poll last summer suggested only one-quarter felt 16-year-olds should be allowed to vote federally while 32 per cent felt teens could handle voting in municipal elections.
For some reason Canadians don't think younger people can be trusted with the vote when it's the policies of today's leaders that are going impact them most. Some call it a question of maturity. Others feel it won't boost the percentage of voters since many young people able to vote now don't.
This is not the first time this question has been raised and it's likely not the last. Voter apathy is continuing to increase and the percentage of voters in elections at every level is on a steady decline. For many young people the fact they can't vote has to be frustrating. Many of them have participated in political campaigns, worked for the candidates and are more educated on issues than a lot of adults able to cast ballots.
The last time the voting age was lowered was in 1970 when an amendment to the Elections Act dropped it from 21. That doesn't mean government shouldn't at least take a long look at the voting age and consider changing it once again. It would go a long way to reaching out to a younger generation that feels ignored and overlooked.

Organizations: New Democratic Party

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