Majority of City Council wants teenagers to vote

Movement afoot to allow 16 and 17-year-olds to vote in future elections

Although only residents over the age of 18 will be voting in two weeks' time at the local and regional elections, that could change in the near future. 

An overwhelming majority on the City Council want to hand 16 and 17-year-olds in Copenhagen the right to vote, using the local elections in 2017 as a trial.

With the support of Radikale, Socialdemokraterne, Enhedslisten and Socialistisk Folkeparti, 41 out of the city’s 55 council members support the idea. 

Behind the proposal is the deputy mayor for employment and integration, Anna Mee Allerslev (R) and city councillor Jonas Bjørn Jensen (S).

”We have seen some useful experiences from Norway that show that if young people take part in the democratic process from an early age, there is a greater chance that they will want to vote later on in life,” Allerslev told DR Nyheder.

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A more enlightened youth
If the proposal is approved and becomes a success, Allerslev hopes that she can take it to the next step by also allowing 16 and 17-year-olds to vote in parliamentary elections.

Socialdemokraterne in Copenhagen want to make the initiative permanent straight away, according to Jensen, who is the city’s youngest council member at just 27.

”Copenhagen is the youngest city in the nation [age per capita] so the young people should also be able to take part in the process of choosing who will shape their daily lives,” Jensen told DR Nyheder. “The youth of today are more enlightened than before so I believe that the time is right.”

Not mature enough
But opposition parties Venstre and Konservative rejected Jensen’s argument, contending that 16-year-olds are in no way enlightened enough to vote.

“Of course it would be beneficial to get more youth involved with the democratic process, but that’s not a good enough reason to let 16-year-olds vote,” Rasmus Jarlov, Konservative's lead candidate in Copenhagen, told DR Nyheder. “You must have a certain maturity and knowledge before you are entrusted with making decisions that will affect the lives of other people.”

READ MORE: Let 16-year-olds vote, commission says

Evaluating since 2011
The Justice Ministry has been looking into the issue since the end of 2011 when a two-year study by the multi-party election commission, Valgretskommissionen, recommended lowering the legal voting age for local, regional and parliamentary elections from 18 to 16.

The ministry is looking into whether laws would have to be altered if 16-year-olds are given the right to vote in EU parliament elections.

The finance minister, Margrethe Vestager (R), said that she hoped the Justice Ministry would have an answer ready soon, preferably before Christmas.

Denmark’s legal voting age has dropped steadily over time. In 1953 it dropped from 25 to 23. In 1961 it was again lowered to 21. In 1971 it became 20 and in 1978 it was set at the current 18,