Light Regional Council Mayor Bill O’Brien has faced a strong reaction over his proposal to lower the voting age for non-compulsory Local Government elections to 16.
An opinion piece by Mr O’Brien published recently has attracted comments from the community both for and against the idea, with many arguing that 16- and 17-year olds lack the maturity to make informed political decisions.
It’s an argument the Mayor finds disappointing, given 16-year olds are already permitted to have responsibilities like driving a car, getting married and joining the defence force.
“In Local Government elections, we only have about 35 percent of people vote, so there’s not huge interest,” he said.
“It fascinates me to see people who don’t even vote themselves wanting to stop someone else because they’re young.
“It’s my strong opinion that we’re building our communities for young people and we should, at every opportunity, embrace that and encourage their input. We should empower them where we can, and we should acknowledge the skills and talents that many of them have.”
One such impassioned young person is 17-year old Kapunda High School student, Elijah Smith. In a letter to The Leader this week, Elijah refutes assumptions that teenagers are disengaged when it comes to political and community issues.
“Young people tend to look on the positive side, to find new ideas and ways of thinking,” he said.
“A vote for young people will not only mean a greater voice for our youth, but a more diverse perspective in our community.”