Isabel Dahlgren - Authorisabel.firstname.lastname@example.org
Vendela Hamberg - Illustratorosqledaren@ths.kth.se
My grandfather always forgets to lock the door and constantly forgets his glasses. Meanwhile, highschoolers join climate strikes around the world and are more well-informed than ever. Should we have a maximum voting age and let more young people vote instead? Or should everyone get to vote, regardless of their age, whether they are seventeen or seventy?
Each election, there’s always a debate about lowering the voting age. The go-to argument goes something like this: “My 16-year-old cousin is very mature, and she’s always up to date with the news. If my senile grandfather gets to vote, why can’t she?” In fact, some countries have already granted 16-year-olds the right to vote. In Sweden, a few parties - as it turns out, those which are more popular with young voters - have proposed a similar approach. But on the flip side, if your 16-year-old cousin doesn’t get to vote, how come your grandfather does? When Sweden became a democracy in the beginning of the 20th century, many people didn’t make it past 50, so the question of disenfranchising the elderly never arose. Yet, with an ageing population, should we have a maximum voting age?
Most 90-year-olds aren’t particularly well-informed about world events. My grandfather hardly knows how to use a cell phone, and he doesn’t know how to Google. He once told me he didn’t bother keeping up with everything; he just isn’t as concerned about the world as he was 30 years ago. He occasionally skims through the local newspaper delivered for free to his mailbox, but that’s about it. Moreover, old people often have obsolete values on topics such as gay marriage or trans rights. People are the most malleable in their early twenties, and as they grow older, it becomes harder to adopt a new set of values. Just think about the difference between our world and the one in which our grandparents grew up! For example, homosexuality was listed as a psychiatric disorder by the National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen) until 1979, and same-sex marriage wasn’t legalised in Sweden until 2009. It also seems as if old people are less open to multiculturalism. In the Brexit referendum, 71% of voters aged 18-24 voted to remain in the EU. Similarly, Biden was much more popular with young voters. Ah, if only there were more young voters!
There’s another good reason to disenfranchise the elderly. Let’s assume that many people vote in their own self-interest, at least on some level. (Otherwise the Moderate party wouldn’t be so popular, right?) My grandfather’s self-interest is in the short term. He won’t be affected by future calamities in a direct sense, meaning that he’ll probably pay less attention to long term risks. When I’m old, I’ll mostly care about my pension and stopping politicians from tearing down old buildings. The world’s most pressing issues won’t be on the top of my mind. Yet, we need more long term policies. Humanity faces several catastrophic risks: climate change, the uncontrolled development of AI and nuclear war, to name a few. These are all problems which cannot be solved within my grandpa’s lifespan, and presumably not within ours. By restricting the right to vote to those who will be affected, perhaps we could devise more durable policies.
This brings us to our final point. Doesn’t it seem reasonable that young people should have more of a say about the future? For us, there’s more at stake. Young people will bear the consequences of poor decision-making. Climate change is a good example. If we mess up todays’ climate, we’re the ones who will take the hit. Sure, our parents might feel guilty from time to time. Yet, judging by how they’ve responded to climate change so far, they evidently aren’t that conscientious. So, isn’t it fairer to restrict the right of old people to vote? After all, they don’t have as much skin in the game.
It’s more politically correct to empower someone than to disempower someone. “Empower the youth” makes for a good slogan, but “Disempower the elderly” just sounds odd, if not elitist. But maybe we should consider a maximum voting age. At any rate, it feels inconsistent to let 96-year-olds vote, but not 16-year-olds.