So far, around one fifth of the Ger­man pop­u­la­tion — chil­dren and young peo­ple under 18 years of age — have no say in polit­i­cal deci­sions. They are ignored by politi­cians. But today’s deci­sions will affect under-18-year olds for decades to come and so the ques­tion of whether these “lost votes” can be found is very important.

Votes for all” – the  right to vote from birth – should not be  mis­un­der­stood to mean that tod­dlers or even babies should be allowed to vote. Rather, young peo­ple should be giv­en the right to vote as soon as they can and want to exer­cise it inde­pen­dent­ly. The FRFG demands the right to vote by reg­is­tra­tion. This means that young peo­ple and chil­dren who wish to exer­cise their right to vote will be able to do so as soon as they want to. There should still be an age lim­it above which every­one can vote, but those younger should be able to vote if they express­ly wish to do so.

Reduc­ing the vot­ing age to 16 years at all lev­els, as in Aus­tria, Mal­ta and sev­er­al Ger­man states (for local and region­al elec­tions) is a rea­son­able first step towards a fur­ther reduction.


Arguments made, arguments lost

Some­times you might hear argu­ments against votes for all. They don’t stand up to scrutiny:

Maturity and political interest

Adults do not have to reach a cer­tain lev­el of matu­ri­ty or show a par­tic­u­lar lev­el of polit­i­cal inter­est before they can vote. And in any case many young peo­ple (not all, but then not all adults do either) are able to think for them­selves and take a con­scious social, moral or polit­i­cal deci­sion before they are 16 years old. There are also many young peo­ple who are polit­i­cal­ly inter­est­ed but feel they are not lis­tened to. Giv­ing them the vote would har­ness their ener­gy and get them into good vot­ing habits for when they are older.

But who would they vote for? 

There is no evi­dence to sug­gest that young peo­ple do or would vote for extreme or joke par­ties more than old­er people.

But would they even bother to vote?

Here we are talk­ing about let­ting young peo­ple vote when they express­ly wish to do so, and so it can be assumed they will be among the most like­ly to vote. Sta­tis­tics sug­gest that the turnout of first-time vot­ers — whether 16, 18 or 20 years old — tends to be low­er than the over­all social aver­age, but high­er than in some oth­er age groups.

But their parents would just tell them what to do?

Young peo­ple start to become influ­enced by oth­ers apart from their par­ents at the age of around twelve to thir­teen, and the influ­ence of their friends and acquain­tances increas­es at the same time. There is no empir­i­cal evi­dence of their par­ents exert­ing an unrea­son­able influ­ence on the elec­toral deci­sions of younger vot­ers. In any case, we are all of us, what­ev­er our age, influ­enced by the peo­ple around us any­way. Who could deny that an adult is often influ­enced by oth­er peo­ple? Does that mean they shouldn’t be able to vote?

But what about other age limits like the age of criminal responsibility? How can somebody vote if they are too young to even be punished?

Oth­er age lim­its are not com­pa­ra­ble with an age lim­it on the right to vote because they do not entail a depri­va­tion of a fun­da­men­tal human right – the right to vote.


Read about the We Want to Vote! Campaign
Read our position paper (in German)

External Information

The Econ­o­mist: Why the vot­ing age should be low­ered to 16