Youth suffrage

Youth suffrage

Youth suffrage, or children's suffrage, is the right to vote for young people and forms part of the broader youth rights movement. Until recently Iran had a voting age of 15; Austria, Brazil, Cuba and Nicaragua have a voting age of 16; and Indonesia, East Timor, Sudan, and Seychelles have a voting age of 17.[1]


United States

In the United States, suffrage originally could not be denied on account of age only to those 21 years of age or older; this age is mentioned in the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The Twenty-sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution, ratified on July 1, 1971, lowered that age to 18. The primary impetus for this change was the fact that young men were being drafted to fight in the Vietnam War before they were old enough to vote. There have been many proposals to lower the voting age even further. In 2004, California State Senator John Vasconcellos (D-Santa Clara) proposed a youth suffrage constitutional amendment called Training Wheels for Citizenship that would give 14-year-olds a quarter vote, 16-year-olds a half vote, and 17-year-olds a full vote.[2]


A proposal to lower the voting age from 18 to 16 was defeated in the Venezuelan constitutional referendum, 2007.

Arguments for and against youth suffrage

Arguments for

  • 16- and 17-year-olds are old enough to pay income taxes (plus people of all ages are subject to sales tax); therefore, denying them the right to vote is taxation without representation.[3]
  • Children are legally permitted to have sex[4] or drive a car, which are more dangerous and difficult than voting.[3]
  • Voter turnout among youth will improve if young people get in the habit of voting before they reach 18 and go to colleges far away from their state of residency, like it did in Germany when some states lowered their voting age for municipal elections.[5]
  • Education for and about democracy would be better served if there was no voting age.[6]

Arguments against

  • Most young people do not have to support themselves financially and are believed not to have sufficient understanding of the realities of life to participate in voting.[7]

Demeny voting

Demeny voting is the idea that parents would cast votes on behalf of their children thereby ensuring that the interests of children were properly accounted for in the voting system.

External links

See also


  1. ^ Worldwide Efforts to Lower the Voting Age, National Youth Rights Association.
  2. ^ Californians consider granting 14-year-olds the right to vote, Bobby Caina Calvan, Boston Globe, April 25, 2004.
  3. ^ a b Vote at 16.
  4. ^ 'We can have sex, so why can't we vote?', The Guardian, Feb. 28, 2006.
  5. ^ Top Ten Reasons to Lower the Voting Age, National Youth Rights Association.
  6. ^ Hyde, M. (2001) Democracy Education and the Canadian Voting Age. PhD dissertation: University of British Columbia.
  7. ^ Should 16-year-olds be allowed to vote?, BBC News (reader opinion), July 5, 2002.

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