At 14 years old, Grade 9 Reynolds student Mira Blakely has two more years to petition for the lowered voting age if she’s going to be among the first generation of British Columbians to vote at 16.
Though it seems unlikely at this stage, it’s technically possible that Blakely’s petitioning could be part of a successful movement to lower the voting age to 16 in time for the next provincial election, which is on or before Oct. 16, 2021.
The ambitious teen has peddled the idea at busier pockets of the region such as the Cook Street Village and the corner of Quadra and McKenzie. And the results are mixed.
“Some people are interested, some aren’t sure, and others kind of keep walking,” Blakely said.
Such is the life of a streetside solicitor.
“A lot of youth end up disengaged because they don’t have the ability to vote,” Blakely said.
This week the City of Victoria will consider advancing the motion to the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities and, from there, to the Union of BC Municipalities, to lower it the age to 16 for all municipal, general elections. It’s timely as Green party leader Andrew Weaver has said he will propose lower the voting age in B.C. to 16 years of age from the current minimum of 18.
It was the NDP who last adjusted the voting age from 19 down to 18 in 1992.
“I think it’s good policy to lower it at all levels, federal, provincial and municipal,” said Victoria Coun. Ben Isitt. “Ideally, the level of civic literacy would be uniformly high. The reality is there are very uneven levels of education and civic responsibility.
“We have older people who don’t vote, and older people who vote but are badly uninformed on issues and their civic responsibility, and need a bigger focus on civic responsibility for all ages.”
It starts with lowering the age bracket to include a wider age bracket, Isitt added.
It could be the biggest change in election history since people of colour and certain religions had their voting bans lifted, part of B.C.’s election history.
At one point the rules were so strict only select white men could vote. Not those who worked for the government. Too partisan. When it came to people of colour, well, let’s just say there was even a ban on Hutterites until 1949. Same for First Nations people and Japanese-Canadians. In 1947 voting bans were lifted on Chinese and ‘Hindus.’
Blakely, and Isitt, believe lowering the voting age is next.