Interest doesn’t depend on age

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As people get older, they get wiser, or so the belief goes. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they become more politically savvy or engaged. Some never enlighten themselves on the process and some become disenchanted with it and drop out.

A topic that continues to crop up occasionally – the voting age – has been resurrected in one of the Atlantic provinces. The Liberal party in Newfoundland and Labrador passed a policy at its annual convention on the weekend favouring lowering the provincial voting age to 16.

Such a change wouldn’t be a slam dunk should the party be elected. Leader Dwight Ball said, in fact, it wouldn’t necessarily be part of the party’s platform in the next election, adding that it needs greater public discussion and that he concedes there would be pros and cons in such a move.

Indeed, it does merit discussion, there and elsewhere.

In consideration of the pro side, many have noted the slow, steady decline in participation in elections over the past couple of decades. Noteworthy is that many younger voting-age people aren’t taking advantage of their recently acquired right. Anything that would arouse more interest among that generation would be worth considering. And though the proportion might be modest, there are younger people – under 18 – who have shown plenty of interest, perhaps even joining the youth wing of a party.

Regarding the disappointing numbers turning out to vote, some make this observation: better to stay home if you don’t follow the issues or have little interest. They claim that the disengaged person’s vote is less valuable, that it might be based on misinformation, a dislike of a candidate’s appearance or other superficial characteristic or on an attack ad, rather than consideration of the performance of parties or candidates.

It would be a good idea to encourage people with a genuine interest in the process to get out and vote – and give them the legal opportunity if they’re waiting on the sidelines.

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador

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