Australia's Youngest Senator Will Introduce A Bill To Lower The Voting Age To 16

    The Greens bill would allow 16- and 17-year-olds to vote.

    Craig Golding / AAPIMAGE

    Teens as young as 16 would be allowed to vote in Australian elections, if a private members' bill to be introduced by the Greens successfully passed.

    23-year-old Greens senator Jordon Steele-John is Australia's youngest federally-elected politician. He is planning on introducing the legislation to lower the voting age to 16, which will then be debated in the Senate later in the year.

    "It’s time the Australian political establishment stopped locking young people out; we care deeply about our future and the world around us and yet don’t get a seat at the table in making those decisions," Steele-John said in a statement.

    "It’s frustrating to me that young people aged 16 can work full time, drive cars, pay taxes, make choices about medical treatment and about their own bodies yet can’t vote or elect the people who make decisions affecting them."

    The law today allows people who are 16 and 17 to enrol to vote, but they aren't allowed to vote until they turn 18.

    The new legislation would not make it mandatory for 16- and 17-year-olds to vote, as it is for every person aged 18 years and over.

    Teens aged 14 and 15 would be allowed to be added to the electoral roll in preparation for voting at 16.

    The legislation would also allow people who were not on the electoral roll, or not at the correct address on polling day, to cast a provisional vote at their current address. Currently voter rolls close weeks out from an election, meaning those not enrolled miss out.

    Labor took a policy to the 2016 election to investigate the potential to lower the voting age to 16, and argued for 16- and 17-year-olds to participate in the postal survey on same-sex marriage last year. The debate sparked by Steele-John's bill will likely seek to push Labor to firm up its support for lowering the voting age.

    The Coalition so far appears reluctant to lower the voting age. Former adviser to Liberal prime minister John Howard, Terry Barnes, wrote in 2016 that any move to lower the voting age would "favour progressive parties like Labor and the Greens, and kick the Coalition into the dustbin of history by cementing a permanent Left majority".

    Josh Taylor is a Senior Reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney.

    Contact Josh Taylor at josh.taylor@buzzfeed.com.

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