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Introducing a Bill to Lower the Voting Age to 16 in British Columbia

Today in the legislature I introduced Bill M229 — Election Amendment Act, 2016. If enacted, Bill M229 would lower the voter age in British Columbia from 18 to 16.

Those who have been following this site will know that last month, I initiated a conversation on whether or not we should reduce the voting age to 16. The response on social media was wonderful and we received many emails on the topic.

It turns out that this conversation is not only happening now in BC. Prince Edward Island will be holding a referendum in the fall on electoral reform. The eligibility to vote will be extended to youth aged 16 and 17 in this referendum.

Below please find reproductions of both the text and video of the introduction of my bill. In addition, I reproduce the accompanying press release.


Text of Introduction


A. Weaver: I move that a bill intituled Election Amendment Act, 2016, of which notice has been given in my name, be introduced and read a first time now.

Motion approved.

A. Weaver: It gives me great pleasure to introduce the Election Amendment Act, 2016, which, if enacted, would lower the voter age in British Columbia to 16. B.C.’s voting age was not always 18. The voting age dropped from 21 to 19 in 1952 and then again to 18 in 1992. In 1970, Canada’s Elections Act was amended to drop the voting age federally from 21 to 18.

There’s ample evidence to suggest that the earlier in life a voter casts their first ballot, the more likely they are to develop voting as a habit throughout their life. It’s also a common misconception that 16-year-olds are not as informed and engaged in political issues as older voters. The available research, however, suggests otherwise. These young B.C. citizens are also old enough to drive, drop out of school, get married, pay taxes and sign up for the military. They are taxed without representation.

Each and every year B.C. students are required to take social studies 11 or civic studies 11 or B.C. First Nations studies 12 to fulfil their social studies graduation requirement. Politics and government is a key unit in the social studies curriculum, taken when students are typically 16. It’s an ideal time to engage students on the history and importance of voting.

Today’s decision-makers don’t have to live with the long-term consequences of the decisions they make. Those who do are either not allowed to or are not participating in our democratic institutions. We can do something about the former by reducing the voter age to 16. After all, the youth of today are the leaders of tomorrow. They should have a say in the direction we are heading, as they will inherit what we leave behind.

Austria, Argentina, Brazil, Germany and parts of the U.K., to name but a few jurisdictions, have extended voting rights to 16-year-olds. Scotland experimented by lowering the voting age in their independence referendum. They viewed it as being so successful that they subsequently permanently dropped the voting age to 16 in all future Scottish Parliament and local government elections. It’s time that British Columbia did the same.

I move that the bill be placed on the orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.

Bill M229, Election Amendment Act, 2016, introduced, read a first time and ordered to be placed on orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.


Video of Introduction



Media Release


Media Release: May 10, 2016
Andrew Weaver – Good evidence for changing voting age to 16
Embargoed Until May 11, 1:30pm
 
Victoria B.C. – Andrew Weaver, Leader of the B.C. Green Party and MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head today tabled legislation to lower the voting age to 16 in British Columbia.

“There is a lot of evidence that shows that if we engage our youth earlier in the political process they are more likely to develop voting as a habit for the rest of their life,” says Weaver. “The decisions we make today as legislators will have a profound impact on the lives of our youth, I can’t think of a good reason why they shouldn’t have a stake in those decisions.”

The voting age was not always 18 in British Columbia. British Columbia dropped the voting age in 1952 from 21 to 19, but it wasn’t until 1992 that we made the subsequent change to lower the age to 18. The Election Amendment Act, 2016, if passed, would change the voting age to 16.

“Austria, Argentina, Brazil, Germany, and parts of the UK to name but a few jurisdictions, have extended voting rights to 16-year-olds”, notes Weaver. Scotland experimented by lowering the voting age in their independence referendum. They viewed it as being so successful that they subsequently permanently dropped the voting age to 16 in all future Scottish Parliament and local government elections.
It’s time that British Columbia did the same.”

“There is a general misconception that 16 and 17-year-olds are too young to make informed decisions or that they will just vote the way their parents tell them to. Research indicates that this is not the case,” argues Weaver. “It appears there is actually a trickle-up effect in civic participation. When youth engage in civics, conversations around the dinner table tend to focus on politics and local issues, which results in a positive impact on voter turnout for the whole family.”

“We allow our 16-year-olds to drive, pay taxes, drop out of school, get married, sign up for the military and work unrestricted hours. Why are we not allowing them to vote?” asks Weaver.

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Media Contact

Mat Wright – Press Secretary Andrew Weaver MLA
1 250 216 3382
mat.wright@leg.bc.ca

2 Comments

  1. Grade Seven Class-Reply
    February 22, 2017 at 11:11 am

    We are a grade seven class in B.C. and we believe that the voting age should not be lowered to sixteen because people of this age are easily influenced by school and social media. They also lack political knowledge and experience and therefore they shouldn’t be able to vote.

  2. October 14, 2016 at 2:19 am

    If I, as a 17 year-old, can join the military, fight and die for my country but I can’t vote for who’s running my country, we certainly have some rethinking to do. Thank you Andrew for making the Legislature rethink with this bill.

    Ned

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