How about letting kids vote?
This year India will vote in its 16th Lok Sabha elections. Election fever has gripped the nation with political parties wooing people and promising “change”. Everywhere you go, people are talking about the elections — TV channels, at home, at workplaces and even in colleges, where there are a large number of first time voters.
This is a good time to think about why children don’t have the right to vote. Most countries allow citizens who are 18 years of age and above to vote, though some allow voting at 16 (see map). It is assumed that once a person has reached this minimum voting age, he/she is prepared to make a voting choice.
There are however people who feel that children should be given a say in selecting political representatives. The demographer Paul Demeny has explored this possibility. Demeny proposed that parents be given the right to vote on behalf of their children.
The idea is that if children have a say in electing political representatives, their concerns will be reflected in the government’s policies.
For instance, the government may come out with better policies on education, children’s healthcare etc. When parents vote on behalf of their children, they are expected to keep the children’s interests in mind. Supporters of this idea say that ‘’Demeny voting’’ may lead to more “family friendly polices”. And this in turn can serve as an incentive for people to vote.
Of course there are criticisms, which is probably the reason why no country has adopted this system yet (though countries like Germany, France, Austria and Japan have discussed the idea). Some feel that this won’t be fair to those who don’t have children. Another concern is that parents may vote for their own interests and not reflect those of the child. Others oppose it on the ground that children don’t have civic responsibilities (like paying taxes, serving in the military) that other voters do.
Today, governments are more focused on the present, and it is possible that alternative ideas like ‘’Demeny voting’’ could bring about more future-oriented policies.
Originally published at www.thehindu.com on February 5, 2014.