Tue, Apr 10, 2018 - Page 3 News List

Alliance, NPP urge lowering voting age

REFERENDUM ON A REFERENDUM:The voting age is 20 in general elections, but 18 for plebiscites and campaigners asked whether 18-year-olds could legally vote on it

By Ann Maxon  /  Staff reporter

The Taiwan Alliance for Advancement of Youth Rights and Welfare yesterday called on the government to lower the legal voting age from 20 to 18 and clarify whether Taiwanese aged 18 and 19 are eligible to vote in referendums.

The Legislative Yuan in December last year passed amendments to the Referendum Act (公民投票法) that lowered the legal voting age for referendums from 20 to 18.

However, the voting age for elections set in the Constitution remains 20 and the thresholds for initiating, seconding and passing referendums are still calculated based on the number of eligible voters aged 20 and older.

The alliance yesterday criticized the inconsistency in the definition of the legal voting age between referendums and elections, and said that more than 50 percent of Taiwanese support lowering the legal voting age for general elections to 18.

Citing statistics from a poll it conducted with news Web site ET Today last month, alliance researcher Wu Cheng-che (吳政哲) said that 52.9 percent of Taiwanese support lowering the legal voting age, while 41.2 percent said they disagree.

The poll also found that 59.2 percent support holding a referendum on lowering the legal voting age alongside the mayoral elections on Nov. 26, he said.

At the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) National Congress in September last year, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) called for a number of constitutional reforms, including lowering the legal age to vote in elections, alliance secretary-general Yeh Ta-hua (葉大華) said.

“However, none of the eight proposals to amend the legal voting age in the Constitution has yet passed its second reading,” she said.

The legislature should pass a bill to allow young people to vote in elections as soon as they reach 18, she said.

In addition, the Central Election Commission should request a constitutional interpretation by the Council of Grand Justices to clarify whether people aged 18 and 19 could vote in a referendum on amending the legal voting age set by the Constitution, she said.

Lowering the legal voting age would not only increase public participation in politics, but also help reduce generational injustice, she added.

“Students begin learning about public policy and laws in junior high school, but most of them cannot relate to the knowledge because they are unable to vote in elections until age 20,” said Wang Ying-chien (王英倩), vice director of the National Federation of Teachers’ Unions’ Department of Social Development Studies.

“Our unwillingness to allow young people to express their political voice is making them apathetic to politics, which is detrimental to the nation’s development,” she added.

Bills to amend the legal voting age have been delayed because the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) has insisted on amending absentee voting rules as well, DPP Legislator Yu Mei-nu (尤美女) said.

Meanwhile, New Power Party (NPP) caucus convener Hsu Yung-ming (徐永明) accused the legislature of “slacking off” and called on members of the public to initiate a referendum on the voting age “to embarrass the legislators [who have been delaying the amendment].”

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