ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Vote at 16, why not?

Vote at 16, why not?
Highlights

Age 16, why can’t it be sweet 16 for democracy too? There is growing debate across the world on the idea of lowering the voting age to 16. Some call it a disruptive move while others opine it would usher in a vibrant democracy. 

Age 16, why can’t it be sweet 16 for democracy too? There is growing debate across the world on the idea of lowering the voting age to 16. Some call it a disruptive move while others opine it would usher in a vibrant democracy.

The world is changing. In New Jersey, you can buy alcohol at 21 and cigarettes at 19, join the army at 17, have sex at 16 and be tried in courts as an adult at 14. Belgium youngsters can get sozzled legally at 16, reports The Economist.

Only when you have turned 18 can you vote. Why? It seems perplexing. Expanding education, improved IQ levels, increasing awareness due to exposure to media and intense interaction on social media are making this generation smarter. Thus, the demand for lowering the voting age gains credence.

However, critics contend that at 16 and 17, one is too immature to vote. Voting is compulsory in some countries. There is even a similar demand in India too. Instead of such authoritarian solutions to increase the voter participation, it is much better to lower the age as many more would vote to make the democracy more representative.

There are already such experiments with lowering age. For instance, in Scotland, even those at 16 were also allowed to vote in the referendum for independence held in 2014. Interestingly, around 75 per cent of them participated in the plebiscite compared to 54 per cent of 18 to 24 years old indicating greater enthusiasm among new voters. Similarly, Austria permitted 16-year-olds to vote in all elections in 2007.

The experience in Austria was also similar to that of Scotland. Thus, even this limited international experience with lowering the voting age is encouraging.

In fact, young men and women learn about how the democracy and its institutions like government function, right in their school days. Voting can be a practical expression of this theoretical exposure. Shunning gerontocracy can further deepen democracy.

India enjoys demographic dividend. This demographic dividend should enrich democracy too as millennials vote.
In fact, millennials are better educated than the earlier generations. They may be less vulnerable to the empty political rhetoric dished out by cynical politicians.

They are more enterprising and less conformist. They nurture an attitude to question than to reconcile. Such activism makes the democratic process more robust.

However, critics feel that millennials perceive voting not as a duty or passion. They are more trivial and less responsible. They can even be indecisive and more impressionistic.

But, such outlandish fears are nothing new. Similar concerns were voiced when voting age was last lowered three decades ago. The voting age in India was changed from 21 to 18 in 1988 through the Sixty-first Amendment to the Constitution. India of 2017 is completely different from India of 1988.

Underestimation of young people's capabilities is a disservice to democracy. Young people are less likely than adults to align themselves with political parties thus encouraging independent political behaviour. The present-day youths are well-versed with technologies and comparatively better informed. It’s at least time to debate and experiment.

Show Full Article
Download The Hans India Android App or iOS App for the Latest update on your phone.
Subscribed Failed...
Subscribed Successfully...
More Stories


Top