Greens call on Labor: Empowering young voters


Time is running out to empower 16- and 17-year-old Canberrans to vote in next year’s Territory election, prompting the ACT Greens to schedule a debate in the Legislative Assembly next week.

“The Greens are bringing forward the voices of mature, informed young Canberrans who are telling us they want to have a say on the local decisions that impact them greatly,” said Johnathan Davis MLA, ACT Greens spokesperson on young people.

“Young people are disproportionately affected by the decisions we  make in the Assembly. They are inheriting a planet, economy and living conditions in urgent need of repair, and they deserve a say.

“The Canberra Liberals have expressed no interest in this reform, but we don’t know which way the local Labor MLAs will vote. It’s time to find out.”

ACT Greens spokesperson on democracy, Andrew Braddock MLA, has been working with the Youth Coalition of the ACT and the local Make It 16 campaign to develop the legislation he co-sponsored with Mr Davis.

“In 1901 the right to vote applied only to men aged 21 and over, excluding First Nations people. As we have many times since then, it’s again time to expand the right to vote to align with community expectations, and the neuroscience that demonstrates 16- and 17-year-olds have the maturity to vote,” Mr Braddock said.

“We’ve been working through every barrier raised with us about this reform, to keep the focus on enhancing our local democracy. “

“Our legislation retains the principle of compulsory voting, but we will also ensure that any new voter who appears to not vote will receive a more effective educational response rather than an automatic fine.



The Greens have been leading the campaign to lower the voting age in the ACT since Kerrie Tucker first tabled a bill in 1996.

The Electoral Amendment Bill 2021, co-sponsored by Johnathan and Andrew would enable 16- and 17-year-olds to vote in Territory elections.

In response to community feedback, the Greens have prepared amendments to their bill that will allow for a new voter to receive an educational warning notice if they appear to fail to vote at their first election. This maintains the compulsory nature of voting whilst providing a more effective response than automatic fines.

This approach has been supported by the Youth Coalition of the ACT and Make It 16. This approach for new voters will also support new citizens from migrant backgrounds who would equally benefit from an educational response for failing to vote in their first election.

It resembles approaches taken by Access Canberra and ACT Police which prioritise engagement and education as a more effective means of achieving compliance, rather than automatic penalties.

Passing this bill now would provide Elections ACT a full year to implement reforms so that 16- and 17-year-olds can vote at the 2024 ACT Election.