Voting Age
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Voting Age

A voting age is a minimum age established by law that a person must attain before they become eligible to vote in a public election. Today, the most common voting age is 18 years; however, voting ages as low as 16 and as high as 25 currently exist (see list below). Most countries have set a minimum voting age, often set in their constitution. In a number of countries voting is compulsory for those eligible to vote, while in most it is optional.

When the right to vote was being established in democracies, the voting age was generally set at 21 or higher. In the 1970s many countries reduced the voting age to 18. The debate is ongoing in a number of countries on proposals to reduce the voting age to or below 18.


In 1890, Law No. 5, 1890, of the South African Republic set a voting age there of 16 years.[1]

Before the Second World War of 1939-1945, the voting age in almost all countries was 21 years or higher. In 1946 Czechoslovakia became the first state to reduce the voting age to 20 years, and by 1968 a total of 17 countries had lowered their voting age.[2] Many countries, particularly in Western Europe, reduced their voting ages to 18 years during the 1960s and 1970s, starting with the United Kingdom (1969),[3] with the United States (26th Amendment) (1971), Canada, West Germany (1972), Australia (1974), France (1974), and others following soon afterwards. By the end of the 20th century, 18 had become by far the most common voting age. However, a few countries maintain a voting age of 20 years or higher, and a few countries have a lower voting age of 16 or 17.[4] It was argued[by whom?] that young men could be drafted to go to war at 18, and many[quantify] people felt they should be able to vote at the age of 18.[5][need quotation to verify]

In the late 20th and early 21st centuries voting ages were lowered to 18 in India, Switzerland, Austria, and Morocco. Japan lowered its voting age from 20 to 18 in June 2016.[6] As of 2007 a dispute continued in the Maldives.[7][8]

Debate on lowering the voting age to 16

Demonstration in favor of lowering the voting age by members of NYRA Berkeley, California (2004)

Around 2000, a number of countries began to consider whether the voting age ought to be reduced further, with arguments most often being made in favour of a reduction to 16. The earliest moves came during the 1990s, when the voting age for municipal elections in some States of Germany was lowered to 16. Lower Saxony was the first state to make such a reduction, in 1995, and four other states did likewise.[9]

Arguments against lowering the voting age to sixteen include lack of political maturity. On the other hand, one of the major arguments for lowering the voting age to 16 is that at this age in most countries a person has reached the legal working age for most jobs and is liable to pay taxes and therefore should not have to pay taxes without the right to political representation.[10]

Others have argued that instead of lowering the voting age to 16, people under 18 generally don't, or shouldn't pay taxes, and a better solution is for those that don't pay income taxes also not have the right to vote.[11]

During the 2000s several proposals for a reduced voting age were put forward in U.S. states, including California, Florida and Alaska,[12] but none were successful. In Oregon, Senate Joint Resolution 22 has been introduced to reduce the voting age from 18 to 16. Also in British Columbia, Canada in November 25th of 2018, Mira Blakely, started a Vote16 campaign of her own and now has unanimously the UBCM and an NDP convention and now is only waiting for it to be brought up in the legislative assembly by the NDP and for it to pass there. [13] A national reduction was proposed in 2005 in Canada[14] and in the Australian state of New South Wales,[15] but these proposals were not adopted. In May 2009, Danish Member of Parliament Mogens Jensen presented an initiative to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg to lower the voting age in Europe to 16.[16]

Demands to reduce the voting age to 16 years were again brought forward by activists of the school strike for climate movement in several countries (including Germany and the UK).[17][18]


On 21 October 2019, Greens MP Adam Bandt introduced a bill in the House of Representatives to lower the voting age to 16.[19]

A report suggesting that consideration be given to reducing the voting age to 16 in the Australian Capital Territory in Canberra, Australia was tabled in the territorial legislature on 26 September 2007 and defeated.[20]

In 2015, federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said that the voting age should be lowered to 16.[21]


In 2007, Austria became the first member of the European Union to adopt a voting age of 16 for most purposes.[22][23] The voting age had been reduced in Austria from 19 to 18 at all levels in 1992. At that time a voting age of 16 was proposed by the Green Party, but was not adopted.[24]

The voting age for municipal elections in some states was lowered to 16 shortly after 2000.[9] Three states had made the reduction by 2003 (Burgenland, Carinthia and Styria),[9] and in May 2003 Vienna became the fourth.[25]Salzburg followed suit,[26][27] and so by the start of 2005 the total had reached at least five states out of nine.[28] As a consequence of state law, reduction of the municipal voting age in the states of Burgenland, Salzburg and Vienna resulted in the reduction of the regional voting age in those states as well.[27]

After the 2006 election, the winning SPÖ-ÖVP coalition announced on 12 January 2007 that one of its policies would be the reduction of the voting age to 16 for elections in all states and at all levels in Austria.[29] The policy was set in motion by a Government announcement on 14 March,[30] and a bill proposing an amendment to the Constitution was presented to the legislature on 2 May.[31][32] On 5 June the National Council approved the proposal following a recommendation from its Constitution Committee.[22][24][33] During the passage of the bill through the chamber relatively little opposition was raised to the reduction, with four out of five parties explicitly supporting it; indeed, there was some dispute over which party had been the first to suggest the idea. Greater controversy surrounded the other provisions of the bill concerning the Briefwahl, or postal vote, and the extension of the legislative period for the National Council from four to five years.[24] A further uncontroversial inclusion was a reduction in the candidacy age from 19 to 18. The Federal Council approved the Bill on 21 June, with no party voting against it.[34] The voting age was reduced when the Bill's provisions came into force on 1 July 2007.[35] Austria thus became the first member of the European Union, and the first of the developed world democracies, to adopt a voting age of 16 for all purposes.[22] Lowering the voting age encouraged political interest in young people in Austria. More sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds voted than eighteen-to-twenty-one-year-olds in Austria.


Brazil lowered the voting age from 18 to 16 in the 1988 constitution. The presidential election of 1989 was the first with the lower voting age. People between the ages 18 and 70 are required to vote.


The first proposal to lower the voting age to 16 years was submitted in parliament in 2007. A bill to lower the voting age for municipal elections reached the final reading in 2018, but was filibustered by opponents until the close of the parliamentary session.[36]


Iran had been unique in awarding suffrage at 15, but raised the age to 18 in January 2007 despite the opposition of the Government.[37] In May 2007 the Iranian Cabinet proposed a bill to reverse the increase.[38][39]


Luxembourg has compulsory voting from the age of 18. A proposal by the government to introduce optional voting for those aged 16 and 17 was rejected by 81% of voters in a June 2015 referendum.


On 20 November 2013, Malta lowered the voting age from 18 to 16 for local elections starting from 2015. The proposal had wide support from both the government and opposition, social scientists and youth organizations.

On Monday 29 January 2018, the Maltese Parliament debated to lower the voting age to 16 for general elections, European Parliament Elections and referenda. Yes On Monday, 5 March 2018, the Maltese Parliament unanimously voted in favour of amending the constitution, lowering the official voting age from 18 to 16, making Malta the second state in the EU to lower its voting age to 16.[40]

New Zealand

The New Zealand Green Party MP Sue Bradford announced on 21 June 2007 that she intended to introduce her Civics Education and Voting Age Bill on the next occasion upon which a place became available for the consideration of Members' Bills.[41] When this happened on 25 July Bradford abandoned the idea, citing an adverse public reaction.[42] The Bill would have sought to reduce the voting age to 16 in New Zealand and make civics education part of the compulsory curriculum in schools.

United Kingdom

The Representation of the People Act 1969 lowered the voting age from 21 to 18, with effect from 1970 and remained in force until the Scottish Independence Referendum Act 2013 which allowed 16 year olds to vote for the first time, but only in Scotland and only in that particular referendum. The Scottish Parliament reduced the voting age to 16 for its own and Scottish local elections in 2015.[43]

Men in military service who turned 19 during the first world war were entitled to vote in 1918 irrespective of their age as part of the Representation of the People Act 1918 which also allowed some women over the age of 30 to vote. The Representation of the People (Equal Franchise) Act 1928[44] brought the voting age for women down to 21.

The reduction of the voting age to 16 in the United Kingdom was first given serious consideration on 15 December 1999, when the House of Commons considered in Committee an amendment proposed by Simon Hughes to the Representation of the People Bill.[45] This was the first time the reduction of a voting age below 18 had ever been put to a vote in the Commons.[46] The Government opposed the amendment, and it was defeated by 434 votes to 36.[46]

The Votes at 16 coalition, a group of political and charitable organisations supporting a reduction of the voting age to 16, was launched on 29 January 2003.[47] At that time a Private Member's Bill was also proposed in the House of Lords by Lord Lucas, and received a Second Reading on 9 January.[48]

In 2004, the UK Electoral Commission conducted a major consultation on the subject of the voting and candidacy ages, and received a significant response. In its conclusions it recommended that the voting age remain at 18.[49] On 29 November 2005 the House of Commons voted 136-128 (on a free vote) against a Private Member's Bill for a reduction in the voting age to 16 proposed by Liberal Democrat MP Stephen Williams. Parliament chose not to include a provision reducing the voting age in the Electoral Administration Act during its passage in 2006.

On 27 February 2006, the report of the Power Inquiry called for a reduction of the voting age, and of the candidacy age for the House of Commons, to 16.[50] On the same day the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, indicated in an article in The Guardian that he favoured a reduction provided it was made concurrently with effective citizenship education.[51]

The UK Ministry of Justice published on 3 July 2007 a Green Paper entitled The Governance of Britain, in which it proposed the establishment of a "Youth Citizenship Commission".[52] The Commission would examine the case for lowering the voting age. On launching the Paper in the House of Commons, PM Gordon Brown said: "Although the voting age has been 18 since 1969, it is right, as part of that debate, to examine, and hear from young people themselves, whether lowering that age would increase participation."[53]

During the Youth Parliament debates of 30 October 2009 in the House of Commons, Votes at 16 was debated and young people of that age group voted for it overwhelmingly as a campaign priority. In April 2015, Labour announced that it would support the policy if it won an overall majority in the 2015 general election,[54] which it failed to do.

There was some criticism about not reducing the voting age to 16 years for the referendum on the membership in the European Union in 2016.[55][56]

YouGov poll research from 2018 shows that whilst the public are still opposed, there is growing support for extending the franchise. As of May 2019, all the main parties, with the exception of the Conservatives, back reducing the age to 16. Some have argued the Conservatives are hypocritical not to support this, as they allow 16 year olds to vote in their leadership elections. It is also argued that all the main parties' approach is self-serving as younger voters are thought more likely to support left leaning parties and remaining in the EU, and less likely to support right leaning parties, and leaving the EU. [57]


The Scottish National Party conference voted unanimously on 27 October 2007 for a policy of reducing the voting age to 16, as well as in favour of a campaign for the necessary power to be devolved to the Scottish Parliament.[58]

In September 2011, it was announced that the voting age was likely to be reduced from 18 to 16 for the Scottish independence referendum.[59] This was approved by the Scottish Parliament in June 2013.[60]

In June 2015, the Scottish Parliament voted unanimously to reduce the voting age to 16 for elections for the Scottish Parliament and for Scottish local government elections.[43]


Major reforms were recommended in November 2017 in the 'A Parliament That Works For Wales' report, by the expert panel on Assembly Electoral Reform led by Professor Laura McAllister. It included increasing the size of the Assembly, adapting/ changing the electoral system and of course reducing the age of voting to 16.[61]

The Welsh Assembly's Commission, the corporate body, introduced on the 12 February 2019 a bill to reduce the voting age to 16 and change the name to Senedd.[62]

The National Assembly for Wales passed the Senedd and Election (Wales) Act on 27 November 2019.[63] A vote to remove this enfranchisement was defeated by 41 to 11 votes.

The first election to include the biggest enfranchisement in Welsh Politics since 1969 will be the 2021 Senedd Election.[64]

Also the Welsh Government is legislating the enfranchisement of 16 and 17 year old's in local government elections by May 2022 for local Welsh elections.[65]

Crown dependencies

Moves to lower the voting age to 16 were successful in each of the three British Crown dependencies from 2006 to 2008. The Isle of Man was the first to amend its law, when in July 2006 it reduced the voting age to 16 for its general elections, with the House of Keys approving the move by 19 votes to 4.[66]

Jersey followed suit on 4 July 2007, when it approved in principle a reduction of the voting age to 16. The States of Jersey voted narrowly in favour, by 25 votes to 21,[67] and the legislative amendments were adopted on 26 September.[68] The law was sanctioned by Order in Council on 12 December,[69][70] and was brought into force on 1 April, in time for the general elections in late 2008.[71][72]

On 31 October 2007, a proposal[73][74] for a reduction made by the House Committee of the States of Guernsey, and approved by the States' Policy Committee, was adopted by the assembly by 30 votes to 15.[74][75] An Order in Council sanctioning the law was made on 12 December,[69] and it was registered at the Court of Guernsey on 19 December. It came into force immediately, and the voting age was accordingly reduced in time for the 2008 Guernsey general election.[76]

Alderney and Sark, each part of the Bailiwick of Guernsey, have autonomy in deciding the question. Both have yet to favour a reduction to 16.

United States

Blue indicates a state that allows 17-year-olds who will turn 18 on or before election day to vote in caucuses or primaries. Pink indicates states that allow 17-year-olds to participate in presidential caucuses, but may not vote in primary elections for other offices.

In the United States, the debate about lowering voting age from 21 to 18 began during World War II and intensified during the Vietnam War, when most of those subjected to the draft were too young to vote, and the image of young men being forced to risk their lives in the military without the privileges of voting successfully pressured legislators to lower the voting age nationally and in many states. By 1968, several states had lowered the voting age below 21 years: Alaska and Hawaii's minimum age was 20[77], while Georgia[77] and Kentucky's was 18.[78] In 1970, the Supreme Court in Oregon v. Mitchell ruled that Congress had the right to regulate the minimum voting age in federal elections; however, not at local and state level.

The 26th Amendment (passed and ratified in 1971)[79] prevents states from setting a voting age higher than 18.[80] Except for the express limitations provided for in Amendments XIV, XV, XIX and XXVI, voter qualifications for House and Senate elections are largely delegated to the States under Article I, Section 2 and Amendment XVII of the United States Constitution, which respectively state that "The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States, and the Electors in each State shall have the Qualifications requisite for Electors of the most numerous Branch of the State Legislature." and "The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, elected by the people thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote. The electors in each State shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the State legislatures."[81]

17 states permit 17-year-olds to vote in primary elections and caucuses if they will be 18 by election day: Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Mexico,[82] North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Virginia, Vermont, and West Virginia. Iowa, Minnesota, and Nevada allow 17-year-olds to participate in all presidential caucuses, but may not vote in primary elections for other offices. Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Washington, and Wyoming allow 17-year-olds to participate in only Democratic caucuses, but not in the Republican caucus.[83]

Currently, the Maine Green Independent Party, the state branch of the Green Party of the United States, calls for the lowering of the voting age to 17.[84]Youth suffrage appears to be gaining ground in Massachusetts; three of the four Democratic United States Senate candidates in 2010 supported lowering the voting age.[85]

In 2013, the City of Takoma Park, Maryland became the first place in the United States to lower its voting age to 16, for local elections and referendums.[86][87] As of 2018, three additional cities have lowered the voting age to 16: Hyattsville and Greenbelt in Maryland and Berkeley in California (for school board elections only).[88] In 2018, a bill in the Council of the District of Columbia was proposed to lower the voting age to 16, which would make the federal district the first jurisdiction to lower the voting age for federal level elections.[89]

On April 3, 2019, Andrew Yang became the first major presidential candidate to advocate for the United States to lower its voting age to 16.[90] At 16, Americans do not have hourly limits imposed on their work, and they pay taxes. According to Yang, their livelihoods are directly impacted by legislation, and they should therefore be allowed to vote for their representatives.[91]


A request to lower the voting age to 17 was made during consideration of revisions to the Constitution of Venezuela in 2007. Cilia Flores, president of the National Assembly, announced that the Mixed Committee for Constitutional Reform had found the idea acceptable.[92] Following approval in the legislature[93] the amendment formed part of the package of constitutional proposals, and was defeated in the 2007 referendum.

Maximum voting age

There are occasional calls for a maximum voting age, on the grounds that older people have less of a stake in the future of the country or jurisdiction.

Voting ages around the world

Voting age:

Eighteen is the most common voting age, with a small minority of countries differing from this rule. Those with a national minimum age of 17 include East Timor, Greece, Indonesia, North Korea, South Sudan and Sudan. The minimum age is 16 in Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Cuba, Ecuador, Malta, Nicaragua and the Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey (three self-governing British Crown Dependencies. The highest minimum voting age is 21 in several nations. Some countries have variable provision for the minimum voting age, whereby a lower age is set for eligibility to vote in state, regional or municipal elections.

The only known maximum voting age is in the Holy See, where the franchise for electing a new Pope is restricted to Cardinals under the age of 80.

Alphabetical list of countries

The following is an alphabetical list of voting ages in the various countries of the world.[94]









  • Haiti: 18
  • Honduras: 18
  • Hong Kong: direct election 18 years of age; universal for permanent residents living in the territory of Hong Kong for the past seven years; indirect election limited to about 220,000 members of functional constituencies and a 1,200-member election committee drawn from broad regional groupings, municipal organizations, and central government bodies
  • Hungary: 18



  • Jamaica: 18
  • Japan: 18 (lowered from 20 in June 2016. The voting age for constitutional referendums was lowered from 20 to 18 in June 2018)[102][103]
  • Jersey: 16
  • Jordan: 18






  • Oman: 21, except for members of the military and police.


  • Pakistan: 18; reserved parliamentary seats for women and non-Muslims
  • Palau: 18
  • Panama: 18
  • Papua New Guinea: 18
  • Paraguay: 18; universal and compulsory until the age of 75
  • Peru: 18; universal and compulsory until the age of 70; (members of the military and national police could not vote until a Constitutional Reform in 2005[111])
  • Philippines: 18
    • For youth councils: 18 to 30; previously from 15 to 18. Incumbents are allowed to keep their positions if they surpass the legal age.
  • Pitcairn Islands: 18; universal with three years' residency
  • Poland: 18
  • Portugal: 18
  • Puerto Rico: 18; island residents are US citizens but do not vote in US presidential elections.










Chronology of lowering the voting age to 18

The following is a chronological list of the dates upon which countries lowered the voting age to 18; unless otherwise indicated, the reduction was from 21. In some cases the age was lowered decrementally, and so the "staging points" are also given. Some information is also included on the relevant legal instruments involved.

non-federal elections: Quebec in 1963,[126]Manitoba on 10 October 1969,[127]Ontario in 1971,[126]Nova Scotia in 1973 following reduction to age 19 in 1970[128] and British Columbia in 1992 following reduction to 19 in 1952[129]

Chronology of lowering the voting age to 16

This is a further list, similar to the above but of the dates upon which countries or territories lowered the voting age to 16; unless otherwise indicated, the reduction was from 18.




  • Isle of Man: 11 July 2006; legislation brought into force in time for general election held on 23 November 2006[165]
  • Austria: 1 July 2007 (BGBl. No. 1/1930, as amended)[35]
  • Guernsey: 19 December 2007 (Reform (Guernsey) (Amendment) Law, 2007)[76][98]
  • Jersey: 1 April 2008 (Public Elections (Amendment No. 2) (Jersey) Law 2008)[70]
  • Ecuador: 28 September 2008 (New constitution accepted by referendum) for general election on 26 March 2009.


  • Argentina: 1 November 2012. Voting for teenagers between 16 and 18 years of age became optional.[166]
  • Malta: 20 November 2013. Motion passed in parliament to lower the voting age to 16 at local council elections starting from 2015.[167]
  • Scotland: 18 September 2014. 16 and 17 year olds were given the vote for the independence referendum. This was subsequently extended permanently for local and Scottish Parliament elections as of the 2016 Parliament election.[168]
  • Estonia: 6 May 2015, in local elections only.


  • Wales: 6 May 2020, for the next Senedd elections.[169] Also the Welsh Government is legislating the enfranchisement of 16 and 17 year old's in local government elections by May 2022 for local Welsh elections.[170]

Organizations in favour of lowering the voting age

The following are political parties and other campaigning organisations that have either endorsed a lower voting age or who favour its removal.

Alphabetical list of countries











In 2013, the Constitutional Convention was asked to consider reducing the voting age to 17 and recommended lowering it to 16.[189] The then government agreed to hold a referendum,[190] but in 2015 postponed it indefinitely to give priority to other referendums.[191]



New Zealand






United Kingdom

United States

See also


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