Greens call for optional voting for teens

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The ACT Greens are calling for the introduction of optional voting for 16 and 17-year-olds in next year’s territory election.

Caroline Le Couteur

“As the recent School Strike made clear, we saw thousands of children taking direct action on climate change. It’s clear that young people are more engaged than ever in our democratic process. These students – residents of the ACT – are concerned about their future but frustratingly aren’t able to vote,” says Greens Democracy spokesperson Caroline Le Couteur.

She says that teenagers of 16 and 17 can legally work full-time. If they are working, they pay taxes. They can drive a car, have sex and make medical decisions about their bodies. They can join the Army, Navy or Air Force. They can sign a lease, or join a political party – yet they can’t vote.

“If young people wish to take part in our democracy, they should have that option. We should give them a chance to have their say where it counts most – at the ballot box,” she says.

Based on data from the last census, the Greens estimate that this would allow at least 8500 16 and 17-year-olds to vote in the 2020 ACT election.

She says the Parliamentary Agreement between Labor and the Greens for this term of the Assembly committed both parties to “establish a Select Committee to review the operation of the 2016 ACT election and Electoral Act, and make recommendations on lowering the voting age… and encourage more people to enrol, vote and participate more widely in political activity”.

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