Saturday, April 30, 2011

Kids can't vote. Who speaks for them?

Who would she vote for? How could the system represent her interests?

You do. Well, you do if you vote. We feed, clothe, educate and protect children with gusto and zeal. Protecting kids extends to voting too.
Young people have the most to gain from responsible long term government policies, yet the youngest 18 years are completely unrepresented at the polls.
Babies are clearly not responsible enough to vote. They don't understand language, let alone implications of political choices. It doesn't make sense for them to vote.
You can make similar arguments for toddlers, preschoolers, elementary school kids, junior high kids, and even high schoolers, though most high school kids are sharp enough to get it.
Currently, we have to be 18 to vote. That leaves about 16-20% of Canada's population unable to represent themselves. This block of unrepresented citizens, 'minors' have at least one major common interest. They have more of a stake in the future than we do. They're going to be living there longer.
Moving the voting age to 16 is a step in the right direction, and would still leave younger children disenfranchised. Another solution is Demeny voting. 
Demeny voting allows parents to cast proxy votes for their children (worth half a vote per parent). This allows the children's perspective to be represented, and avoid a situation where the political power skews towards the elderly, with an incentive to offload problems into the future, rather than develop long-term solutions.
This would encourage parents, and therefore politicians, to think about what the next generation is likely to want. Things like strong environmental policy, education, and reducing the debt that will have to be repaid by future generations. Would parents vote for their children's benefit or would they just have extra votes for their own interest? Hard to say, but it would certainly get the conversation going. Maybe allowing citizens to vote at 13 years of age could have the same effect.
It would certainly teach youth about voting and encourage them to become engaged in their communities and in the process. It would raise the profile of responsible long term policies, because youth have more to gain from not being debt-ridden. Candidates would therefore have an incentive to think more about longer term solutions.
In the meantime though, consider that your ballot's not just for you, it's also for the ~6 Million young Canadians who can't cast a ballot on election day. And they have a huge stake in the future. You protect and care for your kids, care for them with your vote too.
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And one that doesn't have to do with an election, but rather with the new beginnings each second brings: Take control of the now.

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