Today at an international conference the Minister of Justice Andres Anvelt claimed to support the lowering of voting age as pertaining to local government elections
“Today, those at least 18 years of age have the right to vote. However, studies indicate that after finishing basic school, kids are aware of the political scenery and are taking active steps to participate in politics, for example establishing youth councils or organizing shadow elections. Therefore, I find it reasonable that 16-year olds have the right to vote at local elections. Youths at that age are socially mature enough to choose independently at an election,” said Anvelt in his introductory speech.
The Minister of Justice highlighted the fact that amendment of the voting age cannot be done over night and it will require the approval of two formations of the Estonian parliament (Riigikogu). Still, the next local government elections will not be held before 2017. “It gives me even greater pleasure to see that many young people here that will be 18 by then are not thinking only of their own political future but are also keeping in mind opportunities beneficial for their younger brothers and sisters and friends. This should serve as a noteworthy example to the so-called grown-up politics in Estonia today,” Anvelt commented.
The Minister explained that lowering of the voting age would have a collective effect on all youths in Estonia as voting rights would be granted to all young people permanently residing in an electoral district, regardless of their citizenship. “Elections would thus also contribute to better integration, hopefully an increased number of voters, and equilibrium between representation of the interests of younger and older voters,” Anvelt elaborated.
“Speaking of other European nations, voting rights have been granted to 16-year-olds in Austria, Hungary and Slovenia as well as in a number of German federal states, for example. Three years ago, Norway also experimented with lowering of the voting age and the Scottish independence referendum will welcome voters starting from age 16,” the Minister of Justice listed but a few examples.
Lowering of the voting age would only apply to local government elections and voting age would remain at its current level as pertaining to parliament elections, i.e. those at least 18 years of age have the right to vote. The age at which one may run for office would also remain unamended.
The International conference Voting at Age 16: Problems and Perspectives takes place today at Tallinn University.