Wednesday, September 03, 2003

Children Voting

Someone has already floated the idea (Otto von Habsburg in some of his op-ed pieces published in right-wing Croatian press), but seems that it is only now gathering something of a momentum in Germany. Some experts propose that the children should be being given votes through their parents as their legal representatives.

According to report, German Greens are opposing the idea. This is hardly surprising, since such policy would increase importance of families with children – the very electorate which is traditionally more conservative.

I don't think that children votes are such a bad idea. Due to demographic and cultural trends, Europe (and, to a lesser degree, the rest of developed world) has seen the increase of pensioners and decrease of the very population that would support those pensioners. In short, decreasing number of young people have to work harder and make greater financial contribution in order to support increasing numbers of the old. "One man - one vote" principle of democracy guarantees that the elderly would have increasing influence on the way national wealth is distributed in the future – at the expense of younger generations. Having those younger generations represented through proxy votes is the best way to counter this potentially destructive political trend.

Furthermore, in most Western democracies, alcoholics, drug addicts and mental patients – people whose mental capacities, including capacity to make political choices, are limited - are allowed to vote. Children, on the other hand, are not, although they, unlike the categories above, are more likely to make future contributions to the society in general.

In many areas of the law enlightened Western societies treat children like adults by putting their rights and obligations in the hands of their parents and guardians. Giving their votes to parents and guardians is the natural extension of such practices.

The major argument against proxy votes for children is practical. If the principle of child proxy voting is accepted, the legislation dealing with it would make the electoral process incredibly complicated, simply because child voter, unlike adult voter, would need intermediaries in it.

Take for example, the most obvious example of child voting – the average family. It consists of father, mother and child. To whom the child's vote would go at the upcoming elections? If father and mother met and conceived the child while attending Communist Youth convention, the answer would be simple. But what if the happy family happens to live in France with father as card-carrying member of Socialist Party and mother as staunch supporter of Jean Marie Le Pen?

The most obvious solution to this problem is Solomonic – splitting the child's vote with both parents receiving one half at the polls. This could complicate vote counting, but those complications are nothing compared with the fury from the feminists. They would argue that such policy would represent discrimination of single mothers and make their children's votes (and consequently, children themselves) less worthy than votes coming from two parent families. Giving the both halves of child's vote to single mother would, on the other hand, enrage social and fiscal conservatives who would scream bloody murder over "welfare queens" having more political clout than "normal" women.

Opening of this can of worms would also lead to another question. Since many marriages end up in divorce, should custody over children include children's proxy votes or should absent, irresponsible father (or spouse) nevertheless have one half of vote instead of more responsible stepfather/stepmother?

Teenagers with less responsible attitudes towards sex also can create new problems for future child vote legislators. What happens if 15-year old bears a child? Should her parents have proxy voting rights? And what happens if the father happens to be minor too? Should the vote of their child be split into four quarter – for each respective grandparent?

Immigration and the fact that love knows no political borders would also create new challenges. One parent is immigrant and can't vote; another is citizen and can vote – does the family as a whole gets one or half vote?

All those issues are at this stage only in realms of long-term speculations. But the idea is already publicly floated and it would gain momentum in years and decades to come. In any case, when the real debate occurs, it would be quite interesting.


Post a Comment

<< Home