Victoria City Council wants to lower the voting age for municipal elections

Victoria City Council voted 8-1 in favour of endorsing two resolutions to lower the voting age for municipal elections at Thursday's meeting.

The proposed change would lower the minimum age from 18 to 16.

Councillor Laurel Collins says this is a good idea, as it would create an opportunity to engage more citizens in local politics.

"It's been shown that the earlier you engage in voting, the more likely you are to vote throughout your lifetime.  There's also many countries including Scotland, Australia, Argentina, who have lowered the voting age to 16, and they have much higher voter turnout among young people than we do here in Canada.  "

Collins says research show that the younger a citizen is when they first vote, the more likely they are to stay involved in the election process throughout their lives.

"If you think about or last Provincial Election, only about half, 56%, of registered voters between 18 and 25 voted.  We have a very low voter turnout among young people.  But in Australia, they had lowered their voting age to 16, and in the same cohort, that 18 to 25 year old range, they average about 79%.  In Scotland, similarly, they're averaging about 75% in that same cohort.  If you compare that to us, it's a huge jump."

She adds that lowering the age will create an opportunity to create a curriculum in the formal education system to inform and encourage young voters to participate in local politics.

She says she's heard criticism for allowing youths to vote, that they are less informed, or don't have the same decision making capacity as older people, but that's not what she believes.

"What I've seen time and time again is that actually, young people have a stake in our future.  There's a ton of young people out there who are passionate,  who are leading youth movements.  Whether it's about climate, or after the shooting in the States,  really including one of the largest youth movements that we've seen.  These people are engaged.  There's people of all ages who are disengaged, or maybe making decisions for funny reasons.  But I think young people, especially as we see this climate crisis coming, have a vested interest in electing their representatives."

Collins adds she's been constantly impressed by youth leaders.

" I met with the Youth Council of the City of Victoria, and these are passionate, engaged, critical thinkers who are coming up with brilliant ideas for our city.  And the fact that we deny them a chance to elect their representative I think is a shame."

The municipality doesn't have the authority to change the voting laws, only the Province could enact the change. Victoria City Council have put forward two motions that will be presented to the Association of the Vancouver Island Coastal Communities, and if it's approved there, it will go to the Union of BC Municipalities,  who would then recommend to the Province that these actions be taken.

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