Sonia Furstenau, MLA for Cowichan Valley and B.C. Green Party spokesperson for electoral reform recently delivered a petition to extend voting rights to 16 and 17 year-olds on behalf of her constituent, Simon Minkow.
Minkow, a 14-year-old advocate for the issue, is a student at Cowichan Secondary’s Quamichan campus in Duncan.
The Green caucus supports making the change, with leader Andrew Weaver having twice introduced private member’s bills on the issue.
“It is an honour to deliver Simon’s petition to the B.C. Legislature,” Furstenau said.
She had received it from him during a Grade 8 assembly at Quamichan, and she followed that up with a question and answer session with the students.
“Simon’s keen engagement in our democratic process is a prime example of why this change is the right thing to do. The decisions we make today will have a major impact on young people. They are fully capable of making informed voting choices. This change would make politicians more accountable to consider their interests and make decisions that will provide them with a bright future,” the MLA said.
Sixteen and 17-year-olds have been given the right to vote in countries across the world, including Scotland, Argentina, Austria and Brazil.
Minkow’s petition has been signed by more than 400 students from various schools in the Cowichan Valley.
“Lowering the voting age would give youth a voice and the legal leverage we need to take issues forward,” added Minkow.
“A lot of youth don’t feel respected by society, but we have an important perspective to offer and should have a say in what happens to schools, for example. Allowing 16- and 17-year-olds to register to vote would be good for democracy. It’s a good age for schools and parents to educate new voters and get them engaged in issues that matter to them. There would also be greater voter turnout because the earlier you start voting the more likely you’ll be a voter for life.”
The petition says, “We the students of the Cowichan Valley support lowering the provincial and federal voting age to 16. We believe that it will be good for democracy. We pledge to become informed and regular voters.”
“This is a really important problem, and something needs to happen,” Minkow said. “There are a lot of passionate youth but we don’t have that support and don’t feel that support out there in society. Yes, we’re still kids but we can still have an important voice.”