PEI

'Not a risky reform': Austria shares experience of 16-year-olds voting

Letting 16-years-olds vote in elections can have a positive impact on voter turnout, says an Austrian political scientist.

P.E.I. Legislature voted down lowering voting age last month

The minimum voting age on P.E.I. will remain 18 for the next provincial election. (CBC)

Letting 16-years-olds vote in elections can have a positive impact on voter turnout, says an Austrian political scientist.

The voting age in Austria was lowered about 10 years ago. Last month, the P.E.I. Legislature rejected a bill that would have lowered the voting age from 18 to 16.

MLAs expressed concern about a younger voting age leading to a lowering of the age for military service, and about the maturity of teenagers who can't keep their rooms clean.

Combined with good political education, a lower voting age can have a positive impact on voter turnout, says Markus Wagner. (Submitted)

Markus Wagner, an associate professor in the department of government at the University of Vienna, said lowering the voting age in Austria wasn't a very controversial move and has been successful so far.

Wagner said it can engage young voters and increase voter turnout in the long run, and ultimately there's not much to lose.

"It's not a risky reform and it's not something that you have to be scared of doing," he said.

"If you have good schools and good education programs, political education programs, it can have positive impact."

Wagner doesn't believe it's something every jurisdiction should do, adding every government has to make its own decision.

With files from Stephanie Kelly

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