Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Ting Shou-chung (丁守中) has put forward a proposal for a non-constitutional way to lower the voting age from 20 to 18 and bring Taiwan more in line with global trends.
Ting said he will submit a request to the Council of Grand Justices to “interpret” the Constitution in such a way as to give the legislature the flexibility to amend the law without violating the Constitution or having to amend it.
Article 130 of the Constitution states that Republic of China citizens have the right to vote when they turn 20. The article also says that, unless otherwise stipulated by the Constitution or by law, upon turning 23, every citizen has the right to be elected to public office in accordance with the law.
Given these provisions, some academics think that amending the voting age without first changing the article would be unconstitutional.
Some social activists have countered that allowing more people to vote while still ensuring that everyone aged 20 and over remains eligible would not violate the spirit of the Constitution.
In his proposal, Ting says that the Constitution ensures people’s rights to “election, recall, initiative and referendum,” but does not specify an age limit for exercising the last three rights.
The rights of recall, initiative and referendum are more complex than merely casting ballots, he said. Since Article 130 does specify an age limit for the rights of election and being elected, lowering the voting age would not be any cause for concern in terms of the age limit for being elected, Ting said.
Lawmakers across party lines have repeatedly put forth proposals on amending the Election and Recall Act for Public Servants (公職人員選舉罷免法) to lower the voting age to 18, in line with international practice, Ting said.
To that end, a proposal for a reduced voting age was submitted to the legislature’s Constitutional Amendment Committee on May 30, he said.
“I understand that it is extremely difficult to change a constitutional article, particularly within a short amount of time,” Ting said.
However, the lawmaker said that the public would greatly appreciate it if the Council of Grand Justices, which is mandated to rule on constitutional issues, hands down a “flexible” ruling on this particular matter, enabling the voting age to be lowered.
Under law, the council can issue constitutional interpretations on matter concerning the right of legislators to change the laws, as long as more than one-third of the sitting members of the Legislative Yuan support the move.
Ting said the his request has already been endorsed by more than one-third of the legislature’s 112 members.
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