The voting age should be lowered two years, to 16, to boost turnout in elections and better engage youth, backbench Liberal MPP Arthur Potts proposes in a new private member’s bill.
Scotland and Argentina are among the places where teenagers are allowed to cast ballots at that age, a time when many are taking on other responsibilities such as getting behind the wheel of a car, said Potts (Beaches—East York) on Monday.
“They can drive. They can work,” Potts told a news conference at Queen’s Park. “This proposal is not a stretch from where we are today.”
Share Your Thoughts! The push follows a panel discussion on voter engagement of young people attended by 300 people at Ryerson University last week, moderated by Star Queen’s Park columnist and visiting professor Martin Regg Cohn .
To address the phenomenon of low voter turnout, at just 51 per cent in the 2014 provincial election, Green party Leader Mike Schreiner advocated a voting age of 16 to “build a lifelong habit” of heading to the polls.
Potts said voting at 16 comes with the advantage that teens can discuss their choices at home with parents or at high school in civics classes, and this provides valuable support and a good sounding board.
“I think they’re quite capable of making a reasoned choice for a political party,” he added, noting two high schools in his riding already hold mock elections to mirror real-world elections.
“I can’t imagine a downside.”
When it comes to policies on climate change and other issues, “they have the most at stake,” he said of teens.
Potts acknowledged he will not get a slot for the bill to be introduced and debated before the legislature rises for the June 7 provincial election, but he pledged to revive it if voters return him to Queen’s Park. He hopes to spur public debate on the idea.
“We’ll see how people respond.”
Opposition parties expressed interest in the idea.
Progressive Conservative Deputy Leader Steve Clark, who was elected mayor of Brockville at 22, said he’s always been focused on getting young people more engaged in the political process.
“Any measure that gets young people involved needs serious consideration by the three parties,” he told reporters.
“It’s worthwhile having a conversation about,” added New Democrat MPP Teresa Armstrong (London-Fanshawe).
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