Analyzing the Negative Impacts of Lowering the Voting Age
Justin Smith-Lorenzetti (6263537)
Politics 110, Section B
TA: Peter Rak, Section X
Submitted November 8, 2010
Word Count: 1454
The debate between quantity and quality is an ever-present one in modern society, whether it be with number or quality of friends one person might have, the quantity or the quality of artwork that someone may own, or, most appropriately, the quality versus the quantity of votes taken at polls during a given election. It is obvious that if the voting age were reduced, there would be an overall, although miniscule because of the cohort effect, increase in the number of votes inside a nation. However, it is important to realize that this is not necessarily favorable. The aggregate quality of the votes cast would be diminished because of the unsubstantiated votes of the newly eligible young. The effects of lowering the voting age on the rest of the election process must also be taken into account. How will it influence the candidates? How would it influence the experienced voters? Sending children to the polls would change the election process drastically, in a negative way. Therefore, under no circumstances should the voting age be reduced at the risk that it would lead to arbitrary votes that would skew the results, while negatively influencing the election process. It is clear that the interests of Canadians today are unlike those of a century ago. Picking a country’s leader and having a say in the direction of your nation used to be a sought after, and highly practiced, privilege. The women’s suffrage movement of the early 20th century, where women fought for the right to vote in Canada (Hill, 1948), is an example of this. It is remarkable how men and women have evolved into lesser political animals to the extent where voting is not a priority to many. Overall voter turnout in Canadian federal elections have dropped significantly in the past twenty years, from 75.3% in 1988 to 58.8% in 2008 (Elections Canada, 2008) , which shows the decreasing interest of the population in political activities. The more stressful fact is that youth voter turnout is startlingly low, only 22% of eligible voters between the ages of 18 and 22 voted in 2000 (Leduc & Pammett, 2003), which points to a continuation of voter turnout decrease in the future – a long term problem that may plague the political system for years to come. The lack of interest in elections among the youth can be explained in several ways. The decrease in youth voter turnout is strongly related to the fact that Canadian political parties are so similar that the victor of an election does not largely influence the lives of boys or girls in their late teens or early twenties, which renders them indifferent. In an open-ended poll taken in 2000, 39% of non-voting youth between the ages of 18 and 24 said that they stayed away from the polls because they had a lack of interest, while 27% said that there were no appealing candidates, and 23% said that they were too busy (Leduc & Pammett, 2003). The indifference of the youth in Canada regarding their political leader is, though unfortunate, very present and therefore a decrease in the voting age would only, as we’ve learned in the past when the Trudeau government lowered the voting age from 21 to 18 and voter turnout in the 1972 election only rose by 1% (Albers, 2005), lead to an increase of indifferent, and non-responding, eligible voters in Canada – the reason for this being that the low voter turnout amongst youth is undoubtedly a cohort problem. Young Canadian adults today are fundamentally different from all previous generations of young adults and through an analysis of their defining characteristics will argue that low voter turnout among youth is a cohort problem, specific to their generation not to their age (Soule, 2001). In other words, it will show that low voter turnout is not a temporary behavior that...
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