Discussant/Commentateur/Commentatrice : Holly-Ann Garnett (Royal Military College of Canada)
Lowering the Voting Age to 16: a Comparative Study on Political Competence and Engagement: Valérie-Anne Mahéo (McGill University), Éric Bélanger (McGill University) Abstract: In the context of declining turnout rates - which are most pronounced among youth -, scholars and public institutions have considered various policy options to stop this trend. One reform considered is to lower the voting age to 16 years old. Advocates of the reform argue that young people would vote for the first time while they are still in school and living with their parents, which would provide a social context that is supportive of their electoral participation. However, opponents argue that the 16 and 17-year-olds are not mature enough to take part in elections. We aim to contribute to this debate by gathering empirical evidence to assess whether such a change in the voting age could benefit or hinder representative democracy, both in qualitative and quantitative terms. First, we investigate whether the 16 and 17-year-olds would vote if given the chance. More specifically, we look at the impact of the social context -such as school activities and the family context- on the motivation to vote, using data from an opinion survey that was administered after the 2018 Quebec election to 3000 respondents, including a subsample of 400 individuals aged 16 and 17. Secondly, we examine whether the 16 and 17-year-olds are as politically mature as the 18-20 years-old or older citizens, and we analyze the impact of individual and social factors on these age groups’ political interest, political sophistication and electoral attitudes.
Voting at 16: The Effects of a Real-Life Experiment to Lower the Voting Age in Belgium: Ruth Dassonneville (Université de Montréal), Marc Hooghe (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven), Martin Okolikj (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven), Dieter Stiers (KU Leuven) Abstract: Across established democracies, citizens are increasingly disengaged from politics and turnout rates are in decline. One of the alleged solutions to counter these trends is to lower the voting age to 16 years old. Despite experiences with voting at 16 in a limited number of countries, important questions remain about the effects of lowering the voting age on these youngsters’ political attitudes. To investigate the effects of voting at 16 on youngsters’ political attitudes, we use the unique situation in the city of Ghent (Belgium), where 16- and 17-year olds were entitled to vote in a mock election that was organized shortly before the 2019 Belgian municipal elections. To investigate the effect of this election, we surveyed youngsters in Ghent between 15 and 19 years old on their political attitudes and preferences. By not limiting the study to 16 and 17 year olds, but including 15 year olds as well, we dispose of information about the political attitudes of youngsters just above and just below the 16 year cut-off point. Assuming that day of birth in the weeks before and after this cut-off is randomly assigned, our study can be thought of as a quasi-experimental design in which groups of youngsters are divided on whether or not they had the right to cast a (mock-)vote. Using Regression Discontinuity Designs – with the Election Day as cut-off – we can estimate the causal impact of the right to vote of 16-year olds on their political attitudes.
Distributed Election Authority: Delimiting Democratic Propsects of Blockchain Voting Systems: Jungroan Lin (Carleton University) Abstract: Though blockchain technologies have generated significant interest and investigation from various actors – especially in the financial sector – very few academics in the realm of political science have attempted to investigate the potential applications of this budding platform technology. This is despite its evident capacity for enhancing democratic processes, providing a solution to the previous technological paradox of anonymity and verifiability, and offering real-time information without relying on a central database and authority. In introducing the concept of a blockchain voting system to the academic literature as a replacement to prior electronic voting systems, this paper aims to answer two primary questions: (1) what, if any, competitive advantages do blockchain voting systems offer that e-voting systems in the past did not and (2) what are the conditions that could lead to the adoption of a blockchain voting system in the near future? After outlining the theoretical implications of such a system, it draws on Estonia as a potential state where such a system may be soon put into place, identifying contextual drivers which make the implementation of blockchain voting possible.