16-year-olds could soon vote in B.C. municipal elections

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WatchMunicipalities across the province have decided that anyone 16-years-old and above should be able to vote in local elections. Now the province is tasked with deciding if the motion will turn in to law. Advocates hope this is just the start. Julian Kolsut reports.

A motion passed at the Union of British Columbia Municipalities this week could mean anyone 16-years-old and above could vote in local elections.

It was introduced by the City of Victoria, after it passed council when it was introduced by councillor Ben Isitt — and advocates are excited.

“Happy, I guess relieved, really excited!” said 15-year-old Mira Blakely of Vote 16 B.C.

“That legitimizes us, it gives us credibility, at UBCM having them support it, it very much makes them see oh people want this, not just a bunch of kids saying hey we want this.”

Victoria’s mayor was the voice for the motion at the annual meeting.

“It’s really important for a number of reasons,” said Mayor Lisa Helps. “First youth are clearly active, they are clearly engaged. Second research from around the world shows that when you involve youth in voting at a younger age in local politics, that translates into voter participation throughout their lives, third we are making decisions around their future,”

The move has Ned Taylor, the young councillor in neighbouring Saanich, thrilled.

“You know 16-year-olds can drive, they can work a job, they pay taxes, in fact 17-year-olds can join the military and fight and die for their country,” said Taylor.

“But they can’t vote who is running their county, so I hope this is taken on by the province.”

Helps said the motion passed with overwhelming support.

“It didn’t squeak past, it was an overwhelming majority, I turned around after I spoke and looked at the room and I would say 80 per cent at least of the people there were in support,” said Helps.

Mira hopes the movement could spread to all levels of government.

“I am going to keep fighting for this until it happens, I don’t care how old I am… once it happens we want to go and get it federally,” she said.

It is now up to the province to decide if young British Columbians could possibly hit the polls as early as 2022 in the next municipal elections.

Julian KolsutJulian Kolsut

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