Things 16-year-olds can do: Pay income taxes, be tried as an adult, get married, start driving
lessons, join the army,… Things 16-year-olds cannot do: Vote. Unless you are Austrian. Or
from Nicaragua, Brazil, Isle of Man, Guernsey, Jersey, Ecuador, or Argentina. But unfortunately
Europe on Track does not call at any of these destinations, so we ask some young people in
Wien about their opinion on lowering the voting age to 16.
Not mature enough, easy to influence, not sufficiently prepared, not informed about politics.
People on the streets and at university find plenty of reasons for not giving 16-year-olds
the possibility to vote. Though this opinion often extends to 18-year-olds as well, the age at
which the vast majority of people on this planet are allowed to vote. Lencka (24, German and
Russian language and literature): “It’s not always better at 18, I really see the difference with
being 24. Young people are still developing themselves and they don’t have a strong opinion of
their own, they are more influenced by TV and media.”
But what about young people themselves? While looking for interviews at one of Wien’s many
universities, we run into 4 high school students, looking at possible study options for next
year. When asked whether they think it is a good idea, they are unanimously positive, but also
have their reservations. “It’s very positive, but it doesn’t interest everybody”, says Jasmin (17).
The main problem for most people seems to be the political knowledge of 16-year-olds.
Knowledge, however, is something which can easily be increased through appropriate and
adapted education. Which is why the European Youth Forum, in its Vote at 16 campaign, calls
for “the lowering of the voting age to 16 with the provision of civic education.” This civic
education, would then provide young people with “the skills that enable them to make choices,
take decisions, and assume responsibility for their own lives within a democratic society.”
And even if the voting age would be lowered, young people would have the choice to use their
right or not. But that might not be good enough for politicians, who might fear an unexpected
change in voting results. “For many young people it’s a fashion to vote because they have the
right, but it doesn’t necessarily lead to good results”, says Lencka. “It would be interesting to
see what will be the results in Austria next year.”