Should uneducated people be allowed to vote

"We are ready to have a say" : Why Berliners 16 and over should be able to vote

Ramona Hinkelmann is chairwoman and Tilmann WeickmannManaging Director of the Landesjugendring Berlin.

A Berlin party alliance made up of the SPD, the Greens, the Left and the FDP has just asked the CDU to deliver the four votes that are still missing for a constitutional amendment for the voting age 16 in the capital. In Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate, the new coalitions have decided that 16 and 17-year-olds can also participate in state elections. It is a trend that bypasses the CDU (#auf gehtsberlin). In the capital, the Union denies young people the ability to make a voting decision.

"We want to implement several ideas first in order to arouse the political interest of young people," says the parliamentary manager of the CDU parliamentary group, Danny Freymark. Does the party really think that the young people who hold the old people in line in the corona pandemic and who, before the pandemic, bring 250,000 people to the streets at Fridays for Future demos with a lot of political interest, are really too uneducated and disinterested?

In any case, research does not see any signs of this. In their current studies, both the Bertelsmann Foundation and the Otto Brenner Foundation come to the conclusion that 16-year-olds have the necessary personal maturity, the political knowledge and the interest in elections. Rather: nothing increases the motivation for political education more than being allowed to vote. Sentences like Freymark's smell strongly of wanting to simply postpone the "problem" voting age 16.

The outcry would certainly be great if we asked adults to prove before the election that they are politically educated. There is nothing of this requirement in the Basic Law or in the Berlin state constitution. So what right do we continue to prohibit 16- and 17-year-olds from participating directly? Instead, we prefer to make decisions over their heads. The conditions in schools during the corona pandemic are an example of this - the old decide, the young have to cuddle.

If the CDU has its way, young people should first have seen the inside of the House of Representatives before they can vote. This should be anchored in the school curricula, because it could strengthen political education. Nothing against more political education - but have you ever seen the inside of the Berlin Parliament? You can still vote. Other standards probably apply to the young. They should first have to earn their basic democratic right. Such a view of the young generation is no longer up-to-date and has something old-fashioned and dusty about it.

Youth parliaments are not enough

The CDU also wants to strengthen the youth parliaments first before the voting age is 16. Sure, these participation formats can be a building block for more participation by young people, but nothing more. Youth parliaments have no direct influence, they are at most a kind of "advisory board". The young people there would be more helpful if they could vote.

The CDU complains that the participation of 16 and 17-year-olds in the BVV elections (yes, they are allowed here) is "disastrous". We are asking ourselves whether the local elections themselves have more of an image problem: The public discourse in Berlin is now fully focused on the election of the House of Representatives.

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A look at the voter turnout of 16- and 17-year-olds in federal states, in which the voting age 16 already applies for state elections, would be more meaningful. If you look at Brandenburg, for example, it becomes clear that the voter turnout of 16- and 17-year-olds in 2019 was even eleven percentage points higher than that of their peers: those between 18 and 20.

Four votes from the CDU are missing for the necessary two-thirds majority for the voting age 16 in the Berlin parliament. 103 MPs are in favor. The CDU has to consider whether it wants to remain the only party besides the AfD that wants to forbid young people from having a direct say in their future. How much is really behind the CDU slogan “# ready for more”? In any case, the 60,000 Berliners aged 16 and 17 are ready.

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