Lower Voting Age To 16

It’s not just that age range, but it’s almost certainly elevated amongst that age range. I have a friend who is quite proud of the fact that he’s managed to avoid ever being registered to vote and he’s 42. Interestingly this included a period during which he was a member of and volunteer with the Australian Sex Party. I’m not entirely sure how that was managed and didn’t inquire too deeply.

Gosh, Pauline Hanson is trying to emulate Nazi Germany … see my complete lack of surprise.

Even if we’re not going to come out in favour of lowering the voting age, that probably requires further discussion, we might want to consider a response to PH on this issue and call her out on her purpose for wishing to disenfranchise people.

My first instinct is to suggest that the problem is de facto disenfranchisement. But that may be my hate of the two party system peeking through. Fortunately, we have New Zealand to look at. Again. They do make good contrasting examples for a lot of things.

Enrolment is compulsory in NZ but voting is optional. If making voting optional for 18-25 would help enrolment rates you would expect to see high enrolment in that age bracket in NZ. Also, if my theory of de facto disenfranchisement is correct, you would expect to see increased enrolment after 1996 that was the first election using MMP.

Unfortunately the only data I’ve found so far are enrolment stats for 2006 and 2013. As you can see, enrolment for the 18-24 bracket is consistently low. Even lower than similar age group enrolment in Australia, which is interesting. Nonetheless making voting optional likely won’t help. As for my theory, while enrolment has slightly improved across the board 2006-2013, it’s inconclusive until older data are found.

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I just thought of something else, in Year 12 it is a mix of 17 and 18 year olds, so in an election year there is going to be a certain amount of political discourse in the schoolyard environment that not every student can take part in voting within the same year level.

Instead of relying solely on age, perhaps a system where anyone enrolled to Year 12 gets voting rights, or 18 years old, whichever comes first. This could I suppose include children who have been put ahead of their peers based on their intelligence level.

I think that the youngest was 11 years old. But this could be an edge case anyway, could just as well say 17 year olds in Year 12.

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I think the doing it by Grade is confusing and asking for too much in the cases that are younger than 16.
I think a reasonable argument is voluntary for 16/17 accompanied with the compulsory politics/civics subject.
Forget about the register unless maybe a last resort…
The optional for the 18-25 sounds a good idea if they avoid like u said

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it’s getting really slippery here, where certain people get a vote or not. Voters don’t need to do these subjects to be a qualified to vote, just mature enough to understand what it is that they are doing and not be discriminatory about that.

I would want the criteria to be similar to each age bracket which aligns with school year level, i.e. all Year 12s (who have not skipped years) would qualify for an election at the same time, which would be some of the older 17 year olds. Or do year 11s which is some of the older 16 year olds & 17 year olds. Dropouts can be included in this age bracket system too


Quoting Jesse’s excellent post:

Enrolment requirements are just a slight twist on the earlier proposal of a “voting exam” or parental approval. Either 17 year olds should have a say in how the country is run or they shouldn’t. By saying that they are entitled to vote but only if they’re enrolled in school/certain classes, you are barring all non-school-leavers from voting. This has some disturbing implications given the year 12 attainment statistics for 20-24 year olds - the data is from 2010 but hasn’t improved much since.

Here are a few of the largest differences in attainment by demographic:

  • 64% for people in remote/‘very remote’ areas vs 81% in major cities
  • 31% of Indigenous people vs 76% of non-Indigenous people
  • 69% if neither parent had attained year 12 vs 90% if both had
  • 62% of people with disabilities or long term health conditions vs 78% of those without

So essentially you would increase the pool of white/healthy/urban/educated voters disproportionately compared to other groups. Similar claims have been levelled against the US voter ID laws.

Non-school leavers are citizens of this country and subject to its laws, they shouldn’t get less of a say based on their education level. I suppose you could tie voting to something external like property ownership, but…


all very good points

Ah, no … that opens a whole host of cans of worms, particularly when considering things like not all students necessarily being citizens or issues where others who do not have voting rights for other reasons somehow regaining them. For example, someone who dropped out of school at 16, subsequently convicted of a serious enough crime to lose voting rights while in prison, re-enrols to complete HSC/VCE (or whatever it’s called in their state) and then what? Regains the right to vote? Then there’s the small matter of those 17-year-olds who aren’t in school because they’re pursuing a trade, you really think they don’t deserve the right to vote just because they’re not in school?

No, you go down that elitist path and it’ll become a tangled mess with the only guarantee of creating more work for lawyers. Now while @dcrafti might appreciate that, the rest of the country would almost certainly not.

Given that the compulsory politics/civics subject could be a slippery slope,
it could also be made a voluntary course, (individuals being discriminatory), or perhaps the parent register can be reconsidered as the carrot (parents/guardians being discriminatory).
Otherwise i don’t see much bipartisan support for it. Maybe a few more progressive liberals might support it…

Personally I’m in favour of a mandatory (i.e. non-elective) civics course, along with one on logic, being made part of the school curriculum at around year 9 in both cases. It’s only a “slippery slope” when it is linked to voting rights, otherwise it’s just education policy. The civics course ought to be a year, since there’s often a great deal to consider, but the logic course only needs to be about one term/semester; ten to twelve weeks.

I’m basing that logic course on one that was trialled when I was at school in year 10 and I don’t know if they maintained it, but it was plonked into the science curriculum because one of the teachers realised that while they were teaching chemistry , biology and physics, we’d never actually been taught the scientific method. I can honestly say that that ten week course in logic was one of the most useful things I learned; straight after reading, writing and maths. It has been that useful.

It’s quite possible to unlink these things from specific political motivations or ideologies. By making the focus on how the Commonwealth and Federation functions as well as how one participates it becomes easier. It’s like any other subject; it’s giving kids the tools they need to participate, it’s then up to them to decide how they do so or even if they do so.

That would definitely have to go away. You can’t link suffrage rights to the consent of another person, even the parents. Indeed, I would argue especially the parents.

No doubt we can all think of reasons why and that article by Michelle Li further up, her open letter to Pauline Hanson published by Vice, provided several examples. Would you really want an LGBTI kid’s voting rights to be dependent on the permission of a homophobic parent? I wouldn’t.

Given the size and activity of both the Young Liberals and Young Labor, you might be surprised there. Both of the majors leverage those movements and the university clubs to expand their recruitment efforts and there is enough influence there to make support for the expansion of voting rights to at least 17 more likely and maybe 16.


I think the topic has gone a little stray here.

Let’s completely cut out any tie to the ability to vote to anything besides age, that’s a can of worms we just don’t want to open.

16-17 Voluntary Voting seems to be a popular idea, so lets ride with that. On the other hand, it looks like people don’t agree with voluntary voting for over 70s so that concept we can eliminate too.

On the topic of enrolment, I believe there are cases where signing up for a service e.g. Centrelink, automatically puts you on the electoral roll. On that note, what do other pirates think of that method?


That’s problematic for security reasons. There are legitimate reasons for many people on Centrelink benefits of various types not wanting to be automatically enrolled in something which reveals their location publicly. Now while it is possible to become a silent elector, the process is not automatic and does require making a case for it. There are also no guarantees that applying for silent elector status will achieve it.

That said, the AEC are fairly reasonable about these things and once again I can speak from experience here. I applied for silent elector status when updating my enrollment details in August in time for the same sex marriage survey and it was granted. If anyone is wondering how that was handled; I did not receive a letter from the ABS, I received one from the AEC which contained everything from the ABS and an additional cover letter.

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It’s currently policy in some states so it’s already implemented there. If this is a concern, then it should be policy to wind back that linking, or at the very least offer an option for the enrolment to be that of a silent elector, if such an option is available.

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I think winding it back or unlinking it would have to be the way to go. The silent elector application process needs to be manually approved by a special group within the AEC, it’s not something that you could just select along with, for instance, a Newstart application.

The application also requires completing a statutory declaration regarding the reasons for the application and that definitely can’t be done online. It may be possible to submit a scanned copy online, but IIRC the current application form needs to be posted in or submitted in person (I did it in person).

Could keep voting compulsory for consistency, allow enrolment by anyone 16 or over, but only have enrolment compulsory for 18 and over.


I reckon that’d be a much harder sell to the public, there seems to be a fair amount of support here for allowing 16-17 voluntarily voting but because of this age group going through the most exam intensive part of school, for that reason alone I wouldn’t support compulsory voting for that age group.


I think winding it back is a bit far, too late to remove someone’s details once the AEC has them.

But I think this linking is something to keep around, maybe as an opt-in with an inducement e.g. $20 knocked off your license fee if you elect to share your information with the AEC.

I meant winding it back in the context of the policy implementation, not removing anyone currently on the electoral roll, that would cause other problems and potential abuse.

It isn’t a bad idea if it’s optional, but that’s the problem here. It does seem to be a policy that is not in place in Victoria, otherwise certain people would’ve been able to find me from earlier this year and they didn’t (also I had to manually update my address details in August). So this policy definitely isn’t consistent across all the states, it might just be in the territories or something.