EDITORIAL: Age-old voting debate back in B.C.

If last week’s call by Green Party leader Andrew Weaver to lower the provincial voting age to 16 sounds familiar to readers of The NEWS, it may not be simply because this is Weaver’s third kick at the voting age minimum can.

Late last summer, School District 69 (Qualicum) trustee Jacob Gair returned from his summer vacation to pitch the same idea, so that students as young as 16 could vote for their own school board members.

Gair is just a few years removed from his own school days and is one of B.C.’s youngest school trustees — if not the youngest. Still, his fellow board members thought enough of the idea to unanimously approve the concept and lobby the government for support of the idea.

The private members bill introduced by Weaver last week may well be an idea whose time has come.

He noted that voting age minimum is already in effect in Scotland, Argentina, Austria and Brazil, and told the legislature that, “Evidence from these jurisdictions shows that enfranchising these young voters has led to substantially higher levels of political participation.”

It’s perhaps no surprise that Weaver would support the idea of more, younger voters involved in the process — and the numbers suggest the NDP could benefit from throwing its support behind the bill.

During the 2017 provincial election, more than 170,000 elementary and high school students participated in the Student Vote program. In those voting results, the NDP formed government with 60 seats, with the Green Party gaining Official Opposition status with 14. The Liberals won 12 seats and one independent candidate was elected.

Most of those opposed to lowering the voting age suggested that youth at age 16 don’t have the experience and knowledge necessary to cast an informed ballot. But we don’t demand adults prove their comprehension of the issues before they’re allowed into the voting booth, and there is little doubt that ignorance knows no age boundaries.

Political views can and do shift over time, and today’s youngsters will likely bring new perspectives to voting as they make the transition into careers, homemaking and, especially, taxpaying. As it stands, though, they have just as much at stake, if not more, in the decisions made by the current government.

If they’re willing to be engaged and involved, the age on their birth certificate should not make their views any less valid.

— Parksville Qualicum Beach News

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