Voting age of 16 backed by long-ago proponent of vote for 18-year-olds

Voting age of 16 backed by long-ago proponent of vote for 18-year-olds

David Wiezel, who fought to get the voting age lowered to 18 in 1971 is now supporting a proposal to lower the voting age again — this time to 16.

The former mayor of New Maryland told Information Morning Fredericton that during his high school days he was the local leader of a provincial campaign to lower the voting age, which was then 21.

"We organized in the schools, we had petitions ... we wrote every member of Parliament and got a fair amount of responses, but it was person to person to person," he said of the movement.

An independent commission on electoral reform in New Brunswick has called for dropping the voting age and the minimum age for being an election candidate to 16 years from 18.

The commission said people who get involved in politics at a young age are more likely to stay involved, and it rejected the idea that 16-year-olds are too young to vote.

Wiezel agreed but said if younger teens want to vote it will be up to them to fight for the change.

"In my day, there were some of us of that age who considered ourselves an activist of some sort and were interested, and I suspect the same is true of the 16-year-old group today," he said.

"They have a tremendous advantage in social media — they can contact more people in 10 minutes than I could in a year. But they also have to convince the rest of us ... that they're mature and responsible."

Hatfield lowered voting age in '71

But Wiezel also said young people are engaged today could likely run the province if given the chance.

Many tweeted their agreement.

"We let 16-year-olds drive, we let them work, and most of the decisions that we're making today will affect them far more than it will affect you and I," Wiezel said.

In 1969, when he was campaigning for a lower voting age in New Brunswick, many other provincial governments had already made the change to 18.

"We were not starting from zero, as the 16-year-old vote would be," Wiezel said. "We weren't going to be first."

In 1971, the Progressive Conservative government of Richard Hatfield lowered the voting age.

"We seemed to think we knew it all, yet what we're handing off isn't very good," Wiezel said. "I'd like to give the real stakeholders a say in this.

"We always say, 'Young people are our future.' Well, put your money where your mouth is."