News / Edmonton

Edmonton youth council wants 16 year olds to vote

Youth council calls for change to let 16-year-olds vote in municipal elections

The city's youth council believes 16-year-olds should be allowed to vote in elections for city council.

Metro File

The city's youth council believes 16-year-olds should be allowed to vote in elections for city council.

Edmonton’s youth council is pushing for teens to have the right to cast a ballot in municipal elections at the same age they qualify to drive a car.

Cameron Somerville, the youth council’s vice-chair, said the council unanimously supported a motion last Thursday calling on the Alberta government to allow voting from age 16 onwards in municipal and school board elections, though two councillors abstained.  

Somerville, who recently turned 18, said youth should be able to shape the future direction of their cities.

“They use city roads, they use city facilities, transit and other services,” he said. “Municipal governments are the closest to the people. They are the ones we see the most and so we think it’s the best place to start.”

Somerville pointed to studies from Austria, where the voting age was lowered to 16 in 2007, which showed 16 and 17 year olds were more likely to cast a ballot than people 18 to 22.

He said getting people voting early builds a healthier democracy.

“When someone votes in their first election, research has consistently shown they are more likely to become a lifetime voter,” he said.

The call from the youth council comes at the same time as the city examines voting barriers by focussing on youth, indigenous voters, new Canadians, people with disabilities and seniors.

Iain MacLean, who's leading the project with the city's election’s office, said they want to find what stops some people from casting a ballot.

“We’re going through this process and wanting to really listen and talk to people about what those barriers could be.”

MacLean said no changes have yet been proposed before asking voters what the barriers are.

“We’re not making any decisions or judgments before we go through the process.”