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Reduced voting age trials

During the 2011 and 2015 local elections, trials with reduced voting age were carried out in selected municipalities.

Voting
Foto: Valgdirektoratet

The question of reducing the voting age has been discussed on various occasions and was raised once again while working on St.meld. No. 33 (2007-2008) A strong local democracy. As a measure to strengthen political participation and commitment among young people, the government at that time proposed a trial in which the voting age would be reduced to 16.

The most important reason was that this could be a way of encouraging more young people into the role of active participants in the local community. One can get knowledge whether the opportunity to participate in this group leads to greater awareness among young citizens of their role in local community life and the opportunity to influence local conditions.

The Storting agreed to the government proposal to hold an experiment by giving the right to vote to young people whose 16th or 17th birthday falls in election year.

143 municipalities (out of 428) applied for participation in the experiments. 20 municipalities were selected to participate in 2011. 20 municipalities participated in 2015, of which 10 also participated in the 2011 trial. The municipalities were selected on the basis of the following criteria:

  • Size (number of residents)
  • Geography
  • Political composition of the council
  • Location
  • Composition by age group
  • The municipality's policy for involving young people

 

The general finding in the evaluation is that lowered voting age does not lead to any fundamental changes in local politics. Voter turnout among the trial-voters, aged 16 or 17, was similar to the population as a whole, though rather high compared to  other young voters. Overall turnout remained stable. Neither did the political voting preferences of the youngest voters deviate substantially from the adult population. There is no evidence suggesting that lower voting age has an effect on long-term turnout. The most concrete effect of the two trials is that when the voting age is lowered to 16, young politicians are elected at a higher rate.

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