Should the voting age be 16? Canberrans asked their views

By Jackson Graham

December 15, 2021

ACT Legislative Assembly Letter to the Prime Minister
The most recent ACT State of the Service report is out.  (Image: ACT Legislative Assembly)

ACT residents are being asked to have their say on legislation that would lower the voting age to 16 for territory elections. 

The Greens have introduced a bill into the ACT Legislative Assembly, with the Justice and Community Safety Committee conducting an inquiry ahead of the assembly debating the bill. 

The same committee earlier this year decided not to investigate the possibility of lowering the ACT voting age after tabling a report recommending separate reforms following the 2020 territory election. 

In an explanatory statement, Greens MPs Johnathan Davis and Andrew Braddock highlighted findings from the Australian Human Rights Commission in 2019 that people under the age of 18 felt they lacked a voice in society. 

They said the purpose of the bill was to “strengthen the democratic engagement of young people” who showed particular interest in issues spanning from mental health, education and decisions affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. 

“As a co-sponsor of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, I hope the ACT will once again be leading the country by creating a healthier, more robust democracy that includes young people,” Braddock said in a statement. 

In the previous inquiry, the committee heard cases for and against lowering the voting age – including from the ACT Electoral Commission, which did not recommend extending voting rights to 16 and 17-year-olds. 

Issues included the territory being out of line with other Australian jurisdictions and the potential for this to create confusion, penalties for minors not voting being inappropriate, and a lack of voting awareness among young people. 

Operational challenges for the commission included maintaining the ACT electoral roll rather than relying on access to the commonwealth roll. 

Liberal MP Jeremy Hanson, the committee chair, said he looked forward to hearing what Canberrans thought about lowering the voting age. 

“This is a valuable opportunity for community views to inform the Assembly debate on this Bill,” Hanson said. 

People can participate in the inquiry by completing an online survey, or making a submission.


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