Should Israel Lower the Voting Age to 17?
A policy statement by Dr. Ofer Kenig.
On March 20, the Ministerial Committee on Legislation will discuss legislation calling to lower the voting age in Israel from 18 to 17. Dr. Ofer Kenig, a researcher in IDI's Political Reform project, explains the the implications.
On March 20, the Ministerial Committee on Legislation will discuss legislation calling to lower the voting age in Israel from 18 to 17. Dr. Ofer Kenig, a researcher in IDI's Political Reform project, explains the following:
- Most countries allow individuals to vote beginning at the age of 18. Very few countries have a lower voting age. In Austria (since 2007), Argentina (since 2012) and Brazil, individuals can vote from the age of 16. Lowering the voting age in Israel would place the country among the company of very few others.
- In the legislation's explanatory notes, the authors claim that lowering the minimum voting age to 17 would encourage greater voter turnout. This statement is not based on fact. Although lowering the voting age would increase the number of potential voters, the percentage of voters who turn out is actually expected to decrease. Studies show that younger voters are less likely to exercise their right to vote. A 2004 study found that in the last 20 years, the newest generation of voters show greater political indifference than their older counterparts, which is demonstrated by their choosing not to participate in elections. An analysis of Canada's 2011 elections found that individuals 18 to 24 participated less in the election than any other age group. A similar situation was found in analyzing Britain's 2005 election.
- Additional research found that when the voting age drops from 21 to 18, it did not increase voter turnout, but rather the opposite. If we look at two recent incidents in which the voter age was lowered to 16, we can see that this shift had negligible impact: In Argentina, the voter turnout in 2011 (before the age was lowered) was 79 percent. In 2015 (after the age was lowered to 16) it was 81%. In Austria, the voter turnout in 2006 (before the age was lowered) was 78.5%. In 2008 (after it was lowered), the turnout was 78.8%. In 2013 it was 74.9%. It is important to emphasize that these percentages do not necessarily reflect only the impact of lowering the voting age, but also other factors.
- However, we should note that in Israel, lowering voting age would not necessarily bring about a reduction in voter turnout. In fact, it is likely that when it comes to high school students, who are enrolled in an educational framework, they will likely exercise their right to vote in large drives. It could also be assumed that if the age was lowered, the Ministry of Education would be sure that in an election year it provided support to the schools to educate youth on the importance of exercising such a civil right and would likely encourage students to vote. From an educational perspective, students receiving the right to vote would be an excellent way for them to practically implement the lessons they are learning in school.