ALBERTA

Alberta Voting Age: Municipalities Consider Lowering Age To 16

09/23/2015 03:56 EDT | Updated 09/23/2015 05:59 EDT
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UPDATE - 2:59 p.m.: Members shot down the resolution, with only 23 per cent voting in favour. Coun. Fitzgerald tweeted "77 per cent of AUMA delegates on the wrong side of history today," before adding that "the only voice[s] missing during today's debate on lowering voting age were the ones the resolution affected most: youth."

Municipalities will be meeting to vote on a resolution to support allowing 16-year-old Albertans to vote in local elections.

Morinville Coun. Brennan Fitzgerald, currently Alberta's youngest municipal politician at age 21, told The Huffington Post Alberta that the move would make young people more engaged in the electoral process.

"The youth agenda is currently not represented in government, so there's currently not much motivation for them to be interested," said Fitzgerald, who hopes to speak in favour of the resolution at a Calgary meeting of the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association Wednesday.

Members will vote on a resolution put forth by the City of Lethbridge that, if passed, would ask the provincial government to amend the Local Authorities Election Act to allow 16 and 17-year-olds to vote.

In 1984, 72 per cent of the 18-24 demographic voted in the federal election, while in 2011, only 38 per cent cast a ballot, according to the resolution.

"The Alberta Education curriculum has these kids already learning about democracy in school. You may not see 100 per cent participation right away, but this is about an opportunity to build good habits early on, and build our voters of the future," Jeff Coffman, the Lethbridge city councillor who proposed the resolution, told the Calgary Herald.

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi agrees with the proposed resolution, telling the Globe and Mail: “I think that a lot of teenagers, particularly if they are still in school, know probably more about governance than we know, so it is certainly something to look at."

The resolution notes that many 16 year olds have adult responsibilities, and that "mock" elections held in high schools often mirror the results of actual elections.

However, not everyone is fully on board with the idea.

“If you can ask why not 16, then why not 15 or 14? The real question is what impact will this age group actually have and the answer is very little. The whole idea is a little unrealistic," Duane Bratt, a professor at Mount Royal University, told the Calgary Herald.

According to the resolution, if the 16-17-year-old demographic is given the chance to vote, it will only increase voter turnout by an average of one to three per cent.

New Brunswick's legislature is also be exploring the idea of lowering the voting age.


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