SANTIAGO — The Senate Human Rights Commission approved a bill that will reduce the voting age for presidential elections to 16. The project will reduce the voting age for municipal elections even more, to 14. Chile is on track to join five other Latin American countries where the voting age is already 16.
The idea to reduce the voting age to 16 for presidential elections was approved three to one by the Senate Human Rights Commission on Oct. 14.
Only Senator Iván Moreira voted against the legislation, due to his belief that “the right to vote must be earned. And I think that a person under the age of 18 is not prepared to decide the future of the country.”
The initiative was promoted in 2012 by three senators. Senator Alejandro Navarro, one of the original three, voted in favor of the bill on Oct.14. He is the face behind the bill and promoted the win on social media.
En Comisión de #DDHH del @Senado_Chile nuestro Proyecto de Ley que busca que los jóvenes puedan votar a los 14 años en municipales y 16 en presidenciales, fue aprobado y pasa a Sala para su debate e indicaciones.
¡Esperamos se ponga en tabla a la brevedad! pic.twitter.com/ct3v4XVA99
— Alejandro Navarro (@senadornavarro) October 14, 2019
History of the Bill
In 2012, parliamentarians explained that there are several laws that give greater responsibility to young people under 18.
They said, “Law No. 20,084, for the first time in Chile, institutes an exclusive justice system for those young people between 14 and 18 who violate criminal legislation.”
They cited this law as an example of how the government has given more responsibilities to young people in recent years, but hasn’t increased their rights.
Therefore, through reducing the voting age, young people can have rights that reflect increased responsibility placed on them.
Senator Jaime Quintana, one of the other senators who proposed the bill in 2012, emphasized that the bill aims “to open channels of participation, not to close or obstruct them.”
Navarro continued his promotion of the initiative in 2014, when he said, “It is time that we recognize the importance of our youth, and open wide the doors of politics.” The idea behind the legislation is to promote a movement for social justice and to encourage young people to make their voices heard.
Encouraging Young People into Politics
Following the vote, Navarro expressed that “democracy is learned by doing, and I believe that a vital step has been taken in the inclusion of young people in the political and social life of the country.”
In May of this year, legislators held a meeting to discuss the bill. Afterwards, Navarro commented that the bill not only encourages political participation for the youth but that it also “seeks to avoid a vital contradiction because minors between 14 and 18 are imputable, but do not have the rights that citizens have.”
This sentiment is now more significant than ever following the recent bill headed to the Senate that aims to reduce the minimum age of identity checks to 14. Young people are not only being held accountable for their actions but will be able to express their political opinion as well.
Voting Age in Latin America and the Rest of the World
If Chile were to reduce its minimum voting age from 18 to 16, the country would join five other Latin American nations where the voting age is 16: Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, Ecuador, and Nicaragua.
The rest in Latin America have a voting age of 18, as is the case with most countries around the world.
Prior to World War II, the vast majority of countries around the world had a minimum voting age of 21. In 1969, the United Kingdom reduced its minimum voting age to 18, in part due to the fact that young men could be conscripted into the armed forces but could not vote. During the 1970s, many countries followed suit and by the end of the 20th century, most countries confirmed their voting age as 18.