The highest civic duty of any person anywhere in any democratic society is voting. That key tool is the highest ability of everyone, but unfortunately, in most democracies worldwide, extremely large minorities of residents aren’t allowed to vote: young people. Children and youth around the world are disallowed from sharing their voices and representing their own best interests through voting.
The Freechild Project advocates and works towards entirely, wholly and completely towards full youth suffrage or eliminating the voting age in every election in every country around the world. Gaining the right to vote is also called suffrage; we believe in children’s suffrage and youth suffrage. The following quotes were spoke at the signing of the time of the United States Voting Rights Act in 1965. Their points apply to youth suffrage today as well.
“Lowering the voting age will… provide [youth] with a direct, constructive, and democratic channel for making their views felt and for giving them a reasonable stake in the future of the nation.”
— Former United States President Lyndon B Johnson
“The reason the voting age should be lowered is not that 18 year olds are old enough to fight. It is because they are smart enough to vote. Youth today are not as young as they used to be.”
—Former United States President Richard Nixon, on signing the Voting Rights Act
Ways Youth are Changing the World through Youth Suffrage
Youth Voting for City Offices — A few cities in the United States and several in Europe have lowered their voting ages to allow youth to vote for city council elections, local government officials and other positions in their communities. This allows young people to become active and engaged in changing the world through democratic processes.
Youth Suffrage — In Scotland, all people older than 16 can vote in every election, all of the time. Originally instituted in 2015, this police is allowing young people to actively contribute to their nation’s health and well-being, as well as fortifying the already substantial contributions youth are making to Scotland.
Youth as Lobbyists — Even without the right to vote, young people can advocate to politicians, government policy makers and other government officials to move social, economic, educational, political and cultural laws, rules and regulations in directions they want. As lobbyists, youth are changing the world by becoming engaged in an essential part of the democratic system that governs most nations.
Things Youth need to Change the World through Youth Suffrage
Education — Training young people about democratic processes and educating them about democracy in general can be an empowering, engaging activity. It is absolutely essential that student/adult partnerships focused on mutual accountability, transparency and respect are at the center of educating youth about voting, politics and government.
Organizing — When young people work together with adults as allies, they can organize their peers, friends and entire communities. This tool can allow youth voting to become an issue in local, state, provincial and national politics by promoting media attention, political motivation and cultural growth.
Inspiration — Focusing on the successes of the youth suffrage movement can be an essential way to inspire, motivate and otherwise compel people of all ages to take action for youth-led social change.
- Votes at 16
- “Lower the Voting Age” by FairVote
- “Campaign to Lower Voting Age to 16 in Local Races Ignites a Debate” by Yamiche Alcindor for The New York Times
- “Should 16-year-olds be allowed to vote?” by Michael White for The Guardian
- “Let 16-year-olds vote” by Jason Brennan for CNN
- “Why Children and Youth Should Have the Right to Vote: An Argument for Proxy-Claim Suffrage” by John Wall Children for Journal of Youth and Environments
- “Barack Wins the Under-18 Vote” by Adam Fletcher
Other tools are out there, too – share your thoughts in the comments below! For more information about how The Freechild Project can support youth engagement in voting in your community or organization, contact us.