Teen vote: age of majority around the world

(Ryersonian file photo)

(Ryersonian file photo)

Thursday, Sept. 18 will be the first time 16 and 17-year-olds will be able to vote in a Commonwealth country when they vote in Scotland’s referendum.

Canadians must be at least 18 to vote — before 1970, you had to be 21.

Daniel Rueben, an associate professor of politics at Ryerson, says at that time, a lower voting age was gaining steam around the world. He believes when voter turnout decreases, discussion increases.

In the United States you also have to be 18 to vote — unless you live in Takoma Park, Maryland, which was the first city to lower the voting age for municipal elections to 16 in May 2013.

Other countries that allow 16-year-olds to vote include Austria, Brazil, Cuba, Equador and Nicaragua.

Austrian election data analyzed in a Journal of Elections article suggests the voter percentage of 16 and 17-year-olds was higher than that of 18 to 20-year-olds.

Rueben, on the other hand, believes that allowing people as young as 16 to vote would not help increase voter turnout, but would continue to decrease it. He says younger people vote less than people who are twice their age

According to Statistics Canada, approximately 1.15 million out of the nearly 3 million eligible 18 to 24-year-olds voted in the 2011 federal election, about 50,000 more than the previous federal election.

This story was first published in The Ryersonian, a weekly newspaper produced by the Ryerson School of Journalism, on Sept. 17, 2014.

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