- 2017年11月29日11:18 来源：互联网
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Youth and Democracy——Vote early, Vote often
Why the voting age should be lowered to 16?
How young is too young?
Rich democracies give different answers, depending on the context: 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 court as an adult at 14.
Such thresholds vary wildly from place to place.
Belgian youngsters can get sozzled legally at 16.
But on one thing most aGREe: only when you have turned 18 can you vote.
When campaigners suggest lowering the voting age, the riposte is that 16- and 17-year-olds are too immature.
This misses the real danger: that growing numbers of young people may not vote at all.
The trend across the West is disturbing.
Turnout of American voters under 25 at presidential elections fell from 50% in 1972 to 38% in 2012; among over-65s it rose from 64% to 70% (data for the 2016 election are not yet available).
For congressional races, the under-25 vote was a dire 17% in 2014.
A similar pattern is repeated across the rich world.
Young people’s disenchantment with the ballot box matters because voting is a habit: those who do not take to it young may never start.
That could lead to ever-lower participation rates in decades to come, draining the legitimacy of governments in a vicious spiral in which poor turnout feeds scepticism towards democracy, and vice versa.
The disillusionment has many causes. The young tend to see voting as a choice rather than a duty (or, indeed, a privilege).
The politically active tend to campaign on single issues rather than for a particular party.
Politicians increasingly woo older voters—not only because they are more likely to vote but also because they make up a growing share of the electorate.
Many young people see elections stacked against them.
It is no surprise, then, that many of them turn away from voting.
Some countries make voting compulsory, which increases turnout rates.
But that does not deal with the underlying disillusionment.
Governments need to find ways to rekindle the passion, rather than continue to ignore its absence.
A good step would be to lower the voting age to 16, ensuring that new voters get off to the best possible start
This would be no arbitrary change.
The usual threshold of 18 means that young people’s first chance to vote often coincides with finishing compulsory education and leaving home.
Away from their parents, they have no established voters to emulate and little connection to their new communities.
As they move around, they may remain off the electoral roll.
Sixteen-year-olds, by contrast, can easily be added to it and introduced to civic life at home and school.
They can pick up the voting habit by accompanying their parents to polling stations.
In Scotland, where 16- and 17-year-olds were eligible to vote in the independence referendum in 2014, an impressive three-quarters of those who registered turned out on the day, compared with 54% of 18- to 24-year-olds.
In 2007 Austria became the only rich country where 16-year-olds could vote in all elections.
Encouragingly, turnout rates for under-18s are markedly higher than for 19- to 25-year-olds.
Merely lowering the voting age is not enough, however.
Youth participation in Scotland might have been still higher if more schools had helped register pupils.
Governments also need to work harder at keeping electoral rolls current.
Some are experimenting with automatic updates whenever a citizen notifies a public body of a change of address.
Civics lessons can be improved.
Courses that promote open debate and give pupils a vote in aspects of their school lives are more likely to boost political commitment later in life than those that present dry facts about the mechanics of government.
A lower voting age would strengthen the voice of the young and signal that their opinions matter.
It is they, after all, who will bear the brunt of climate change and service the debt that paid for benefits, such as pensions and health care, of today’s elderly.
Voting at 16 would make it easier to initiate new citizens in civic life.
Above all, it would help guarantee the supply of young voters needed to preserve the vitality of democracy.
Catch them early, and they will grow into better citizens.