Should the voting age be lowered? Raised? A few high school students have some thoughts. Photo by Mike Davies/Campbell River Mirror

Carihi Mirror: Should the voting age be lowered to 16?

Jocelyn Diemer asks her fellow students and a political studies teacher about youth and elections

This October, countless 18 year-olds will vote in a federal election for the first time, and many are extremely excited to do so. But in recent years there has been some discussion about lowering the voting age in Canada to 16, which would allow many more young people to cast a ballot and help decide who wil govern.

Back in March of 2018, Canada’s elections chief Stéphane Perrault said that there was a “real benefit” to allowing 16 year olds to cast a ballot, because “Canadians who vote early in their lifetimes will continue to vote.”

So what do actual teenagers have to say about a lower voting age? Well, some Carihi students, at least, don’t think it’s a very good idea.

Jessica Revoy, a Grade 11 student, actually thinks that the voting age should be raised to as high as 25 rather than lowered, to give people a chance to mature and to do their own research on what different parties and candidates stand for.

“I was told that our brains aren’t actually fully developed until our mid-twenties,” Revoy says. “The time between high school and real life would give us the chance to actually take the time to to understand what we would be voting for.”

Grade 10 student Hailey Ricard also believes that 16 year-olds shouldn’t vote, but for a different reason.

“I don’t think that 16 year olds should have the right to vote, because [most of them] don’t pay taxes,” Ricard says. “If they’re interested in politics there’s other ways that they can be involved.”

If the voting age shouldn’t be lowered, how can younger students ensure that they will be ready when their turn to vote comes? Carihi’s Political Studies teacher Tom Skinner has some tips.

“For students to genuinely understand what the political parties in Canada stand for, they have to want to understand them,” Skinner says. “They have to see the relevance of politics in their own lives.”

Skinner also says that adults need to take some responsibility for engaging with the next generation about what’s happening in Ottawa, Victoria, and elsewhere in Canada.

“Both teachers and parents should feel excited at the thought of welcoming teenagers into conversations about politics,” Skinner says. “Talking about politics shouldn’t be scary or awkward; parents and teachers can model how to have civil conversations about difficult topics.”

As for those students who will be voting this year, they are excited to finally make their voices heard on a national scale.

Chloe Dobrinsky will be coming back to B.C. from an exchange in Brazil a couple of months ahead of the October election and says that her time abroad has helped her become informed.

“I’ve had so much free time this year,” Dobrinsky says. “I’ve actually paid attention to world politics and formed my own opinions.”

Myron Simard will be voting for the first time this year, and he is “definitely looking forward to voting.”

Simard also has some ideas for determining voter-readiness.

“I think that there should be an age cap and some form of knowledge or familiarity test that’s designed to be accessible but also assesses if the voter actually knows what they’re voting for,” he says.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, Kennedy Byron is extremely excited to cast her first-ever ballot.

“I want my voice to count and I think it’s important [to vote,]” says Byron, a former Campbell River resident who now lives in Ontario, “It really affects a lot of things.”

Whether 16, 18, or any other age, it’s clear that Canadian youth are trying their best to stay informed, and they have their own ideas when it comes to politics. But whether they’ll continue to have to wait until they are 18 to vote remains to be seen.

For a non-partisan source of information surrounding the upcoming election, educational tools and resources, or to register as an elector, visit electionscanada.ca

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