Minimum Voting Age

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Should our democracy lower the voting age to 16?

“It is young people who create the counterculture, who can see reality from another point of view, and who question all of their society’s ideas and prejudices.”

Argentine senator Elena Corregido spoke these words in October 2012. In that month, both houses of the Argentine National Congress voted to lower the voting age from 18 to 16.


Materials (pdf)

Minimum Voting Age — Lesson:

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Links to Principles

The nature of democracy changes and grows along with its citizenry, but it’s always based on principles that help citizens modify, uphold, and strengthen their democracy. Visit the DDA Democratic Principles and Activities page to learn more about the principles underlying democracy and gain access to activities that help students understand the complexity of democracy. 

We’ve identified some democratic principles addressed in this lesson “Should our democracy allow national referendums?” What principles might you add to the list below?

Please click here for the pdf of the fourteen principles handout on our Democratic Principles & Activities page.

Principles

Bill of Rights

billofrights

Bill of Rights
Most democratic countries have a list of citizens’ rights and freedoms.  Often called a “Bill of Rights,” this document limits the power of government and explains the freedoms that are guaranteed to all people in the country.  It protects people from a government that might abuse its powers.  When a Bill of Rights becomes part of a country’s constitution, the courts have the power to enforce these rights.

Citizen Participation

Citizen Participation
citizenparticipationOne of the most basic principles of a democracy is citizen participation in government. Participation is more than just a right—it is a duty. Citizen participation may take many forms, including running for election, voting in elections, becoming informed, debating issues, attending community meetings, being members of private voluntary organizations, paying taxes, serving on a jury, and even protesting.  Citizen participation builds a better democracy.

Political Tolerance

politicaltolerancePolitical Tolerance
Democratic societies are politically tolerant. This means that while the majority of the people rule in a democracy, the rights of minorities must be protected. A democratic society is often composed of people from different cultures, races, religions, and ethnic groups who have viewpoints that differ from a majority of the population. People who are not in power must be allowed to organize and speak out. Political minorities are sometimes referred to as “the opposition” because they may have ideas which are different from the controlling majority. If the people in the majority try to destroy the rights of people in minority groups or with minority viewpoints, then they also destroy democracy.


Resources

Selected Resources

Cowley, Philip, and David Denver, "Votes at 16? The case against," Representation, 41.1 (2004), http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00344890408523289 (accessed October 31, 2012).

Fontana, Guillermo, "Argentina drops its voter age to 16," CNN, http://www.cnn.com/2012/10/31/world/americas/argentina-youth-vote/index.html (accessed November 1, 2012).

Fuentevilla, Julián Güitrón, "Derecho Familiar," El Sol de Mexico (September 9, 2012),  http://www.oem.com.mx/elsoldemexico/notas/n2688854.htm (accessed December 3, 2012).

Griffiths, Nigel, and Beth Egan, "Give Wayne Rooney the vote," New Statesman, (November 4,  2002), http://www.newstatesman.com/node/144147 (accessed October 30, 2012).

International Foundation for Electoral Systems, "Election Guide – Ecuador,"  http://www.electionguide.org/country-news.php?ID=64 (accessed October 31, 2012).

Oregon v. Mitchell, 400 U.S. 112 (1970).

The Center for Voting and Democracy, "17-year-old Primary Voting Fact Sheet."  http://www.fairvote.org/17-year-old-primary-voting-fact-sheet#.UK0yO2dQDiR (accessed November 21, 2012).

U.S. Const. Amendment XXVI, § 1.

"Votar a los 16: especialistas consideran que los chicos aún no tienen formado el sentido crítico," El Sol Diario Online (August 31, 2012), http://elsolonline.com/noticias/view/146030/votar-alos-16-especialistas-consideran-que-los-chicos-aun-no-tienen-formado-el-sentido-critico  (accessed December 3, 2012).

White, Isobel, "Voting Age," House of Commons Library (November 6, 2012), www.parliament.uk/briefing-papers/SN01747.pdf (accessed November 21, 2012).