The right to vote is regarded as one of the most fundamental democratic principles of our society. We consider universal suffrage to be a marker of an egalitarian society, and therefore making a distinction about who can and who cannot vote is contradictory. However, such a demarcation is made in regards to age. In Ireland the qualification to vote is that one must have reached 18 years old; this is provided for in Article 16.1.2°.i of The Constitution of Ireland. We must look again at the way we are disenfranchising a massive proportion of society and the reasons why it’s inappropriate.
First, we seem to be ignoring the concept of “No Taxation Without Representation”. A child is permitted to work from the age of 14 and consequently is earning and taxed upon his or her own money. He or she has no input into tax policy or how his or her taxes are to be spent. I don’t think it is fair for a person’s private possessions to be dis-appropriated in this way. Perhaps some might say that the child is not capable of making the decisions necessary to vote. However, this is not the standard used in deciding who and who cannot vote; if it were, there would be an exam to test the capability of people to understand and appreciate the issues involved.
It also seems to me that there is no such thing as a “wrong” vote. It is not our prerogative to say that children are not allowed to vote because they will do it wrong and not make the “right” decisions. Many people would admit that photos of the candidates effected their decisions on how they were going to vote. If these people are going to be allowed to vote we have absolutely no justification for not allowing young people to vote. We don’t want to go down the road of mixing aptitude qualifications with our voter registration forms however, we do need to have some form of test i.e. some people are incapable of voting those with very sever mental handicaps, very young children, people in comas etc. of course we can legitimately say that these people cannot vote because they are unable to fulfil the simple technical requirements of ticking the boxes. This I believe is the only legitimate standard that can be used.
Allowing young people to vote will also foster a more involved attitude in people from a younger age and show them that there view matters and hopefully they will see this and will continue on the road of playing an important role in the community. I think it’s time to end this, the last of the electoral discrimination’s, and allow young people to vote and to become active and interested citizens.