The National Youth Council of Ireland have called for the lowering of the minimum voting age from 18 to 16. The lowering of the vote would “enhance, expand, and enrich the democratic system in Ireland”, claim the NYCI.
Other countries such as Scotland, Austria and the Isle of Man have lowered their voting age to 16. At a seminar in Dublin last week, the NYCI and UCC proposed similar changes to the voting ages in Ireland.
Marie-Claire McAleer, the head of research and policy at the NYCI, said that; “unfortunately, the then Irish government reneged in 2015 on its commitment to follow the recommendations of the Constitutional Convention and hold a referendum to allow young people aged 16 and over the right to vote.”
She continued by saying; “as has been demonstrated by Scotland, extending voting rights to greater numbers of young people not only has positive outcomes for young people, but the health and vibrancy of the democratic system as a whole.”
Using Scotland is a particularly interesting example. In 2014, the country had its independence referendum. In terms of age groups, 71% of 16-17 year olds asked by the Guardian said that they voted to leave, compared to 73% of people over the age of 65 voting to stay in the United Kingdom.
This stark contrast in voting habits between different age demographics can also be observed in the Brexit referendum results (75% of voters aged 24 and younger voted to stay in the EU, according to YouGov) and the 2016 United States Presidential Election.
However, this age demographic gap does not necessarily lend credence to the idea that the voting age should be lowered. Stateside, for example, while the ability of more young people may have been able to increase Hillary Clinton’s popular vote win, it is unlikely that Trump’s already comfortable win in the Electoral College would have changed all that significantly.
However, one of the arguments in favour of the lowering of the age is that it will encourage more youth involvement in the political process. We have already seen what an inspired youth can contribute to political and social issues such as the Marriage Equality Referendum, as well as the Repeal the 8th movement.