Should the Voting Age Be Lowered?

At YFS (Youth Forum Switzerland) 2019, there were quite a few events that explored the advantages and disadvantages of democracy. One of the first events was a talk featuring an ISZL student, Eva Dwyer, and the first female chancellor of Geneva, Anja Wyden Guelpa. The talk was titled ‘Democracy is Fragile’, which many students found interesting, as it is a popular opinion that democracy is pretty much an ideal form of government. However, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit, only 20 out of the 167 countries they evaluated had full democracies, with Switzerland ranked in tenth place. According to this source, only 4.5 % of the world’s population is living in a country that has a full democracy. Another 55 countries had flawed democracies, accounting for 44.1 % of the world’s population. Among those 55 countries was the United States, which got downgraded from a full democracy in 2016. The democracy index shows that from the countries they evaluated, they discovered that the majority of the world’s population live with a flawed government. 39 other countries have a hybrid regime as their democratic system, leaving 53 countries under an authoritarian regime.

So what did the speakers have to say about democracy? Their solution was to lower the voting age, with Anja Wyden Guelpa even suggesting that every person should have the right to vote from the moment they’re born. This seems reasonable: the parents can give their child permission to vote if they wish, or the child can wait until they’re 18 (the general voting age norm). For reasonable children with responsible parents, this idea doesn’t seem outrageous or crazy. It seems like it could give the youth a voice to help with democracy today. However, many students saw the flaws in this idea. What if the parents acted irresponsibly with their child’s right to vote? The child could easily be forced to vote for who the parents want to vote for. Some people suggested that because children’s beliefs are easily manipulated, the votes wouldn’t reflect what the child actually thought. This also came with the possibility of a child not being educated on politics with the consequence of them being unable to form their own ideas.

On the other hand, many adults could suffer from situations that are very similar to the hypothetical situations that youth might have to face. Presumably, many adults don’t have a political education and can be easily manipulated by family, friends or colleagues. Some major decisions that will have an impact on the youth’s lives are being made by those who will probably be dead when the population must face the consequences. Should youth be allowed to vote on everything? Or should they be granted the privilege when the outcome will have a major impact on their lives?

Do you think that lowering the voting age could help a lot of countries switch from a flawed democracy to full democracy, or do we need to explore other alternatives?