Teenagers are objectively cooler and woker than they’ve ever been, and the Greens want to take advantage. This morning Jordon Steele-John, who became Australia’s youngest-ever senator in 2017, announced the party’s plans to introduce legislation that will allow 16 and 17-year-olds to vote in federal and state elections on a voluntary basis.
Steele-John proposes amending the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 to give young people aged between 16 and 18 a “grace period” to engage in the democratic process if they wish—no penalties if they don’t feel ready to vote yet. While voting rights wouldn’t kick in until their 16th birthdays, teens would be allowed to pre-enrol from age 14.
The Greens think young people have earned the right to help decide who forms government. “In the last few years we’ve seen a surge of young people making their voices heard about the issues that matter to them; the marriage equality campaign in Australia being a prime example,” Steele-John said in a statement released this morning.
“It’s time the Australian political establishment stopped locking young people out; we care deeply about our future and the world around us and yet don’t get a seat at the table in making those decisions.
“It’s frustrating to me that young people aged 16 can work full time, drive cars, pay taxes, make choices about medical treatment and about their own bodies yet can’t vote or elect the people who make decisions affecting them.”
A lowered voting age isn’t an entirely outlandish concept—16 and 17-year-olds are eligible to vote in Argentina, Austria, Brazil, and Ecuador. There’s even a chance that the Greens will find a bit of support for their bill in parliament: back in 2015, opposition leader Bill Shorten made headlines when he told a Young Labor conference he fully supported lowering the voting age. A representative for the Greens told VICE the party was “hopeful” that Labor would support their bill.
Said bill also includes new provisions to make voting easier and more accessible to all voters. One significant change includes allowing citizens to add themselves to the electoral roll on polling day, democracy sausage in hand.