Lower voting age to engage our youth in politics

Singaporeans who are 18 years old are allowed to trade in shares, drive, buy cigarettes and alcohol, and enter a contract.

Many 18-year-olds also leave home for the first time as recruits in national service.

Hence, it is time, to consider lowering the voting age from 21 to 18 years.

While a progressive increase in rights and responsibilities may justify the voting age of 21, times have changed.

There is no reason to believe that a person who is 18 and entering adulthood is unable to assess the quality of a candidate and make considered judgments.

Lowering the voting age encourages youngsters to get active in the political process and to start caring about issues that affect them.

This enables them to increase their connection to their community, have an appreciation for local issues and be more concerned about voting.

If the State alienates youngsters, that could drive them to social media to search for alternatives means to express their frustrations.

Giving them the vote provides them with a direct, constructive and democratic channel for making their views felt, as well as gives them a stake in the future of our nation.

Having more opinions expressed through the voting booth can give politicians a better glimpse of what the population wants and better chart the direction of public policy.

Lowering the voting age may not be a magic bullet to improve the lives of young Singaporeans, but it will give them a real stake in the future and push them to be more involved, active citizens.

Francis Cheng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 30, 2015, with the headline 'Lower voting age to engage our youth in politics'. Print Edition | Subscribe