I wasn't sure whether to send this to the Bitch or to Letterhead. Thanks for your time.
Olivier JardaVP Academic, Saint Mary's University Students' AssociationHalifax, NS
I recently read an article in Maclean’s entitled “Stop Him before He Votes”. It argued that “today’s 18-year-olds are too immature to vote”, and that the voting age should be raised. According to the article, because youth are now less likely to be employed and are more likely to be living at home, this warrants raising the voting age to 21. Although the youth vote is lower than the adult vote by over 10%, giving 18 year olds the right to vote entrusts them with an important responsibility mirroring the transition into adulthood. Taking this right away would be more of a placebo than a remedy.
Regarding the argument made that young potential voters party too much to have the right to vote, and are not as responsible as our baby boomer parents were, I have one question: does anyone remember the 70s? From what I’ve gathered, I believe that our parents did their fair share of partying. Between all the “sex, drink, clubs” mentioned in the article, a significant portion of today’s youth somehow still finds the time to vote. However, raising the voting age may decrease the percentage of youth that vote (currently 38.7%), serving to further alienate youth from political participation.
My peers have the capacity to participate, and to disenfranchise them because they are stuck in a prolonged childhood is a poor argument. Welcome to the age of information, where kids grow up faster than ever, usually at speeds of more than 100Kb/s. Youth are flooded with information, and the rising popularity of television and the internet as a means to communicate political messages has made it easier for young voters to make an informed vote. Also, if you’ve ever watched Jay Leno’s ‘Jaywalking’ segment, political naivety does not exclude adults over 21.
Lower voter turnout is not a question of immaturity or naivety. In fact, many immature and naïve adults go to the polls and make uniformed decisions. The fact remains that it is their right to do so. We must look at why young voters don’t vote, not just take the vote away from them. Many youth have simply become disillusioned with politics, and have discredited voting as a means to effect change. And who could blame them? Supporting parties which have a position on a wide array of issues has lost its appeal. Should a young gay business owner vote Conservative? Should a right-wing separatist vote Bloc? Should a pro-choice unionist vote NDP? Volunteering for cause-specific organizations has allowed youth to personalize their values, instead of buying a prepackaged soup du jour from a political party. Youth are still fulfilling their civic duties, albeit differently than our parents did, through such channels as volunteer and non governmental organizations. Youth have found other ways to contribute to society that they deem to be more effective than casting a ballot.
Instead of getting in bed with the party their parents have supported for years by placing a sign on their front lawn, youth are getting things done outside of the political arena. We may not vote as much, but we are not apathetic; disdain for Canadian politicians and the current electoral system has created a generation of non-voters who would rather change the world by buying fair trade coffee than vote (of course we do much more than that). Youth voters have to be convinced that their vote is not going to waste, and it is not by raising the voting age that this will be accomplished.
If a Conservative government is elected, it will most likely form the youngest cabinet in recent history. In fact it was Conservative MP Rona Ambrose who retorted to Liberal minister Ken Dryden, “We don’t need old white guys telling us what to do.” Youth have changed drastically and now have more tools at their disposal than ever to bloom into well-informed and active participants in society. The potential is there, and it’s about time that Canadian politics get some extensive plastic surgery. Raising the voting age to 21 will do little to reach that potential; in other words, this tummy tuck just won’t do.
By Olivier Jarda