I don’t read Matt Yglesias often enough to tell if this post, saying that there should be no age requirement for voting in America, is serious or not. You decide for yourself; here it is, in its entirety:
Via Jonathan Bernstein,Sally Kohn writes about a campaign in Lowell, Massachusetts to let seventeen year-olds vote in local elections. More power to them, but I say let any American citizen vote in any American election he or she wants to.
Objections to this usually take the form of imagining a highly disciplined party of seven year-olds reliably delivering bloc votes to whichever candidate credibly promises endless kindergarten. If you think for five minutes about the practical problems of political organizing, and then for five minutes more about the practical problems of getting kids to do anything I think you’ll see quickly that this is a misguided worry. Realistically, voter turnout in the United States is not particularly high to begin with. Older teens and twentysomethings are already disproportionately unlikely to vote. If we extended the vote to more children, my guess is that relatively few of them would exercise it. But those who did would come from an unusually dedicated and informed sub-set of American teenagers. Meanwhile, if seven year-olds somehow do manage to organize themselves into an effective political lobby, I say more power to them. R
Sic, obvs. On the one hand, he can’t possibly be serious. On the other hand.
What’s particularly instructive about this outré idea is that, of course, it’s not new. Among people who think about demographic seriously (as opposed to just popping off on a blog), the concept has been kicking around since the mid-’80s. It’s called Demeny Voting. Contra Yglesias, the goal of Demeny voting is to amplify the power of parents, since low-fertility countries often find themselves in a vicious cycle where the young are increasingly taxed to provide benefits for the growing proportion of aged, creating disincentives to have children, which makes the pension system even more unsustainable. But Demeny and the other grown-ups who’ve toyed with the idea realized that you can’t just hand the vote to 3-year-olds (they cannot read; they cannot get to the polls; etc.). So he proposed handing proxy votes to parents–an extra vote for fathers for every son, and for mothers for every daughter.
No country has tried it yet, but in the last year Hungary actually flirted with it in a semi-serious way. Which is the type of thing that, if you were going to publicly advocate for such a system, you should probably know.