Volume 18

What's So Funny about Voting Rights for Children?

by Daniel Weinstock

The case against extending the vote to children is usually grounded in consequentialist rather than in categorial grounds. That is, it is thought that it would be harmful to allow children to vote. But the denial of the voting rights of children should satisfy a principle of realism; that is, it should not invoke consequentialist criteria which would also rule out certain categories of adults. Nor should it infer from the present level of relevant aptitudes of children that they could under no circumstances increase their possession of relevant aptitudes, since these levels are at least in part a function of the arrangements societies have made to promote their development in children. Arguments to the effect that children should be given only fractional votes or that they should be granted the vote only under certain conditions do not satisfy these requirements. Moreover, they are premised on a mistaken view about the nature of the changes that introducing children into the pool of voters would give rise to, and on an exaggerated view of the extent of the changes to electoral outcomes that they would generate. Accommodations that we would need to put in place to facilitate access to the vote would, moreover, largely be of a piece with the kinds of accommodations that we make, or that we ought to make, for all voters.

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