My original policy had some friendly amendments for clarity and language, so here is what I'll be presenting at Summer Fling this weekend:
Encouraging Youth Democratic Participation and Improving Civic Education (Provincial)
By: William Norman, Mississauga South
WHEREAS – The lowest voter registration rates are for young voters 18-24 years of age
WHEREAS – There is a positive correlation between voting and being registered as a voter before General Voting Day
WHEREAS – Australia and several American states allow for voter registration below the age of 18
WHEREAS – The Chief Electoral Officer of British Columbia recommended in 2011 in his Report to the Legislative Assembly to amend the BC Elections Act to allow the provisional registration of individuals when they are 16 years of age
WHEREAS – Ontario Young Liberals have previously passed policies encouraging youth democratic participation and improving the Civics class as part of Ontario’s curriculum
BE IT RESOLVED THAT – The Ontario government amend the Ontario Elections Act to permit the registration of individuals onto the voter list when they are 16 years of age
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT – The Ontario government amend the Ontario High School curriculum to include the voter registration process, as the majority of students in grade 10 would be 16.
Here are some backgrounders promoting youth pre-registration:
Here is the 2011 report from the Chief Electoral Officer of BC where he recommends allowing youth to pre-register to vote at 16
"Encouraging youth participation
The lowest voter registration rates are for young voters 18-24 years of age. There is a
positive correlation between voting and being registered as a voter before General Voting
Day. The most effective means of registering youth may be to approach them before they
graduate from high school. Currently, voter registration is restricted to those at least 18
years of age, an age when many youth have left high school.
Australia has addressed this issue by allowing provisional voter registration of 17 year
olds. Several American states have provisional registration for 16 or 17 year olds, or
have introduced Bills or declared their intention to do so in this regard.
Legislators may wish to consider allowing the provisional registration of individuals
when they are 16 years of age. The voting age could remain at 18, with provisional
registration becoming an active registration on an individual’s 18th birthday. Permitting
early registration at the age of 16 would permit Elections BC to work with schools and
the driver licensing program to ensure maximum exposure to the registration process for
young voters. Many high school teachers have expressed support for this concept as it
would allow meaningful action by their students in the context of civics education.
Improving the accessibility of registration opportunities for youth may have a longer-term
effect on voter engagement and turnout."
"Several other states have changed registration rules to encourage civic participation by youth.
In Hawaii, eligible 16-year-olds are allowed to pre-register so that their voter status is
automatically activated at age 18. In the states of Connecticut, Iowa, Florida, Maine,
Wisconsin, Missouri, and Texas, pre-registration is open to 17 year olds. Federal legislation
was introduced in 2004, the Gateway to Democracy Act, to allow teenagers to preregister,
with an emphasis on those applying for their driver’s licenses (in most states, at 16 years of
age). Wisconsin reaches out to young voters with a state law establishing a “registration
deputy” at every high school, filled by a volunteering teacher or staff person."
Here is a really in-depth study of the impact of youth pre-registration in Hawaii and Florida, demonstrating the link between pre-registering and actual voter turnout as well as the importance of civic education from George Mason University
"Thousands of young people in these states take advantage of preregistration, and preregistration appears to have positive and persisting long-term effects on their voting propensities...Success of preregistration is maximized when election officials and educators act as partners.... As policy makers consider how to implement preregistration programs elsewhere, providing for means of ensuring participation by educators, such as requiring preregistration as a component of a mandatory high school civics curriculum, will likely result in the most robust implementation of preregistration."
That last quote I think really brings it home.