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Pimples at the polls: Argentina tries to lower voting age to 16

If successful, President Kirchner would most likely benefit.

By Staff writer / October 21, 2012

Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner (front, r.) and her Irish counterpart, Michael D. Higgins, shake hands at the Casa Rosada Presidential Palace in Buenos Aires, Oct. 11.

Martin Acosta/Reuters

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Should the United States lower its voting age to 16 or 17? Argentina is the latest nation on track to do so.

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The Senate of the South American nation voted this week to allow 16- and 17-year-olds to cast ballots at the polls, generating outcry from political opponents of President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, who is widely supported by a growing youth movement, which we reported about here. Critics say that, in appealing to youths, Ms. Kirchner is trying to bolster her party ahead of October 2013 legislative elections.

The president’s supporters, however, say the goal is to strengthen democracy. “It is young people who create the counterculture, who can see reality from another point of view, and who question all of their society’s ideas and prejudices,” Elena Corregido, a ruling party senator and co-author of the bill, told the radio show "The World." “So we by no means think that they’ll be pulled along like cattle to the market.”

If the bill, which now goes to the lower house, becomes law, Argentina would join Brazil, Nicaragua, and Ecuador in Latin America, as well as Austria, in setting 16 as the minimum voting age. The vast majority of countries in the world today, as seen in this chart of voter ages globally, have placed the minimum voting age at 18. (In some countries, like Saudi Arabia, citizens have to wait until they’re 21 to cast a ballot.)

Those against the move in Argentina do not just cite unfair politics. In opinion pieces and comments to the local media, critics are arguing that youths are too easily manipulated and not sufficiently educated or mature enough to participate in a task as important as electing a nation’s president.

Should US follow suit?

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