A case for the abolition of voting age

0. Abstract

There have been increasing acceptance of the view that sixteen and seventeen years olds should be allowed to vote. I am going to defend a much radical view that the voting age should be completely abolished. I.e. every child, so long as he or she can and willing to, should be allowed to vote.

Many people will instinctively respond “it is a ridiculous idea!”. However, I shall defend that enfranchising children of all ages is the only way we can sufficiently ensure children’s rights protected; their interests count, and their voice heard.

Although all adults have been children, adults, when age 18 or older, have no immediate interests to defend children’s rights. It is not surprising that the policy on children’s rights and interests have escaped political debate to the extent it has.

Voting age is one of the most conspicuous forms of age segregation. Children are subjected to the law. Children are subjected to the law and policies concerning compulsory education, age restrictions, and custody. In the absence of voting rights, children are governed without consent. By giving children the right to vote, children can consent to be governed.

The same arguments for the child suffrage can be applied to child candidacy. There is no reason why children should not be members of parliament. Children can defend and represent children’s interests in the parliament, and perhaps children will do it better than adults.

1. Introduction

There have been increasing acceptance of the view that sixteen and seventeen years olds should be allowed to vote. I am going to defend a much radical view that the voting age should be completely abolished. I.e. every child, so long as he or she can and willing to, should be allowed to vote.

Many people will instinctively respond “it is a ridiculous idea!”. However, I shall defend that enfranchising children of all ages is the only way we can sufficiently ensure children’s rights protected; their interests count, and their voice heard.

Although the focus of this paper will be the children’s right to vote, my arguments here can be applied to support children’s right to candidacy, and I believe ensuring there are children in the parliament is the best way to ensure children’s rights protected.

In this paper, children will stand for any person who is under age 18, or any person under the legal voting age of any jurisdiction where the voting age is not 18.

2. Arguments for abolition

It has been a pleasing development that children’s rights are increasingly protected in many countries. One important for the protection of children’s rights is a prohibition of corporal punishment of children. Now, 54 jurisdictions prohibited hitting children. Although it is extremely unlikely that a country which allows parents to hit children will give votes to children, there are many practices also restricts the rights of children.

Although all adults have been children, adults, when age 18 or older, have no immediate interests to defend children’s rights. It is not surprising that the policy on children’s rights and interests have escaped political debate to the extent it has. Most parents want their preference on how to raise their children respected. Many parents may not want their kids protected from certain actions by them.

2.1. Compulsory education

Compulsory education, for example, is arguably a form of involuntary servitude, even if it may be necessary to protect children’s interests. Giving votes to children will motivate political parties to promise different education policies and those education policies will also be voted by children, those who are subjected to it.

Child suffrage does not mean the abolition of compulsory schooling. It is entirely plausible to think at least some form of compulsory education could be supported by most children, not just most adults.

2.2. Review of age of majority

Every country has an age of majority. While the age of majority serves an important function, it is unclear why there should only be a single age of majority for different actions.

It may be entirely reasonable to restrict the commercial pilot certification for people under age 18, in a way similar to restrict certification for people over age 65. However, there are many activities children are not allowed to carry out. Children are not allowed to work, are not allowed to apply for passport independently, for example.

Although age restrictions for certain activities are very likely to continue after the child suffrage, some age restrictions will be reviewed or reformed for the sake of children’s interests.

2.3. Consent of the governed

Voting age is one of the most conspicuous forms of age segregation. Children are subjected to the law. Even though children under certain age are not subjected to prosecution for the violation of the law, children are subjected to the law and policies concerning compulsory education, age restrictions, and custody. In the absence of voting rights, children are governed without consent. By giving children the right to vote, children can consent to be governed.

2.4. Best interests of the child

There is an assumption that parents will have children’s best interests in mind when they make decisions for their children. However, as David Benatar has suggested, a child is never brought into existence for its own sake, “to bring the benefit of life to some pitiful non-being suspended in the metaphysical void and thereby denied the joys of life.”. Instead, children are brought into existence to serve interests of their parents, their grandparents, their sibling, or the community.

The fact children are brought into existence mostly motivated by parental self-interests, not for the best interest of the child, is an excellent reason to think that when parents or adults are voting on the issues concerning children, they may vote for their own self-interests, not for the best interests of the child.

Arguably, parental interests and children’s interests, in many cases, overlap. It is one of the interests of most parents, for their offspring’s life go as good as possible. It is one of the interests of most children, their parents’ lives go as good as possible. However, many parents wish and pressure their children to uphold their religious or cultural practice, to uphold their values and preferences, to obey their wish on them to pursue a certain career, or even to be or pretend heterosexual or cisgender. For these reasons, children have important interests that may go against parental interests and preferences, and denial of political rights of children damages their interests.

3. Arguments for voting age and response

3.1. Knowledge and maturity

The most common reason the voting age could be tried to be defended is the children’s limited knowledge and maturity. However, the knowledge and maturity of cognitively-normal adults and cognitively-normal children differ in degree, not in kind.

If it is justified to deny children the right to vote on the alleged limitedness of knowledge, maturity, and intelligence, it should be justifiable to deny the right to vote for people below certain IQ score, below a certain level of education, for example. Age is a very poor proxy for knowledge and maturity.

It could be argued that denying adults the right to vote on the basis of IQ will deny a person a right to vote for his or her entire life, while the restriction of the right to vote of children will not (provided, the child will survive until adulthood). However, children’s welfare and interests matter in itself. One’s childhood is not merely preparation for one’s adult life but is a stage of life similar to middle age or old age. Children’s welfare matter because they are sentient beings whose life can go better or worse for them, not just because it will affect the welfare of the adults they will become.

3.2. Dependence

One particularly poor argument for the denial of child suffrage is the financial or other dependence of children. However, it is not true that all adults are financially independent. Some adults are the beneficiaries of welfare payment. A similar argument may be applied to deny suffrage of (stay-at-home) women. While “financial dependence” of housewives could be understood as a remuneration for the work of housewives, housewives are not part of the official economy.

It should be noted that children’s non-participation in the labor force is a quite recent phenomenon after the introduction of compulsory education and legal working age.

Also, parents are responsible for the dependence of children, arguably by bringing them into existence without their consent. Children arguably provide a labour of companionship for their parents, and there is no reason why children should be denied the right to vote for the reason of “dependence”, so long as stay-at-home spouses are not denied the right to vote for their “dependence.”

4. Why not voting age of 6 or 12?

It could be said the idea that infant should have the right to vote is “ridiculous.” However, infants will not understand the concept of voting. On the contrary, children who can register to vote, and vote can be said that they understand the concept of voting. The capacity to register to vote and vote will be a sufficient demonstration of the understanding of the concept of voting.

5. Children’s participation of parliament

While my focus so far has been children’s suffrage, there is no reason why we should not give children the right to candidacy. The same arguments for the child suffrage can be applied to child candidacy. There is no reason why children should not be members of parliament. Even if children might not be suitable to carry out duties of the president or the prime minister, children can defend and represent children’s interests in the parliament, and perhaps children will do it better than adults.

A case for the abolition of voting age