Two Yukon teenagers have made their case to lower the voting age from 18 to 16.
Juliette Belisle Greetham, 17, and Keegan Newnham-Boyd, 16, presented their arguments and a petition favouring the change at the hearings of the Yukon’s special committee on electoral reform on Sept. 7.
Belisle Greetham and Newnham-Boyd are leading the Yukon team of the Vote16 Canada organization, which describes itself as a “a non-partisan, national collaboration encouraging and supporting efforts to lower the voting age for federal, provincial, territorial and municipal elections.” The organization began its work in 2020.
A private members bill to lower the voting age in federal elections has been tabled in the House of Commons by Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Taylor Bachrach and is scheduled for second reading on Sept. 22.
The Yukon petition presented at the electoral reform hearing bears the names of nearly 130 individuals who expressed support by adding their name to the online document available at change.org.
In a Sept. 7 interview, Belisle Greetham said she wasn’t sure what to expect when she started the petition a week ago. This being her first petition, she thought she’d be pleased to get 25 signatures.
“I’m so proud of our community,” she said, noting it’s great to see so many in favour of a lower voting age.
Belisle Greetham went on to highlight a number of arguments favouring 16 as the voting age.
There’s a number of people aged 16 and over who work, paying taxes to governments they have no say in.
“We’re not getting any representation,” she said.
As stated in the petition: “At 16 years old, legal self-autonomy laws and rights have some significant changes such as being able to work without needing parental consent and paying work-related taxes, legally having the choice of leaving school and home, entitlement to consent to own medical treatment and sex, as well as having the opportunity to acquire a driver’s licence, giving them the responsibility of keeping themselves and others safe on the road.
“16-year-olds’ responsibilities for self and contributing to society should have the same rights and privileges as others with whom they share the same duties. They are intellectually equipped to consider the consequences of their actions and those of society.”
Belisle Greetham also pointed to the involvement of youth in calling on governments to address climate change and noted the importance of having youth know about the voting process and how to vote.
Studies have shown lowering the voting age can have a positive impact on voting habits as youth get older, she pointed out.
For many, by the time they are 18 they may be dealing with a number of other life changes — living away from home for the first time or taking post-secondary studies for the first time — and figuring out how to vote while dealing with all of that may be more difficult, with youth opting not to cast their ballots for the first time.
Altering the voting age to 16 could mean that by the time voters are 18, they are familiar with the process, making it easier and more of a habit to mark a ballot even in the midst of changes in their lives, she said, pointing out voter turn out in the last federal election was only 62 per cent.
“That was a really big wake-up call,” Belisle Greetham said.
She got involved with Fair Vote Yukon and attended public hearings in May on electoral reform, putting forward her views there that the voting age should be lowered to 16. After that, she was approached by officials with the local Vote16 Canada organization to join the organization.
“I realized how much we needed this,” she said.
Belisle Greetham said she hopes that along with hearing a number of perspectives on voting herself, that the Vote16 message was received at the Sept. 7 hearing.
Contact Stephanie Waddell at firstname.lastname@example.org