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Voting age

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A legal voting age is the minimum age that a person is allowed to vote in a democracy. For general elections around the world, the right to vote is restricted to adults, and most nations use 18 as their voting age, but for other countries voting age ranges between 16 and 21. Voting age may therefore coincide with a country's age of majority, but in many cases the two are not tied.


In 1890, the South African Republic, commonly known as the Transvaal Republic, set a voting age of 18 years.[1] The effort was, like later legislation expanding voting rights for women and impoverished whites, in part an attempt to skew the electorate further in favour of Afrikaner interests against uitlanders.

Prior to the Second World War of 1939–1945, the voting age in almost all countries was 21 years or higher. In 1946 Czechoslovakia became the first state to reduce the voting age to 18 years,[2] and by 1968 a total of 17 countries had lowered their voting age, of which 8 were in Latin America, and 8 were communist countries.[3]

Australia, Japan, Sweden and Switzerland had lowered their voting age to 20 by the end of the 1960s.[4]

Many major democratic countries, beginning in Western Europe and North America, reduced their voting ages to 18 years during the 1970s, starting with the United Kingdom (Representation of the People Act 1969),[4][5][6] Canada, West Germany (1970), the United States (26th Amendment, 1971), Australia (1974), France (1974), Sweden (1975) and others. It was argued that if young men could be drafted to go to war at 18, they should be able to vote at the age of 18.[7]

In the late 20th and early 21st centuries voting ages were lowered to 18 in Japan,[8] India, Switzerland, Austria, the Maldives, and Morocco. By the end of the 20th century, 18 had become by far the most common voting age. However, a few countries maintain a voting age of 20 years or higher, and a few countries have a lower voting age of 16 or 17.[9]


The vast majority of countries and territories have a minimum voting age of 18-years-old as of October 2020.[10] According to data from the ACE Electoral Knowledge Network, 205 countries and territories have a minimum voting age of 18 for national elections out of 237 countries and territories the organisation has data on as of October 2020.[10] As of the aforementioned date, 12 countries or territories have a minimum voting age of less than 18, with 3 countries or territories at 17-years-old, and 9 countries or territories at 16-years-old.[10] 16-years-old is the lowest minimum age globally for national elections, while the highest is 25-years-old which is only the case in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).[10] This age of 25 was also the case in Italy for Senate (upper house) elections until it was lowered to 18 in 2021.[11] Italy's lower house of Parliament, the Chamber of Deputies, has had a minimum voting age of 18 since 1975, when it was lowered from 21.[12]

Debate on lowering the voting age[edit]

Demonstration in favor of lowering the voting age by members of NYRA Berkeley, California (2004)

Around 2000, a number of countries began to consider whether the voting age ought to be reduced further, with arguments most often being made in favour of a reduction to 16. In Brazil, the age was lowered to 16 in the 1988 Constitution, while the lower voting age took effect for the first time in the 1989 Presidential Election. The earliest moves in Europe came during the 1990s, when the voting age for municipal elections in some States of Germany was lowered to 16. Lower Saxony was the first state to make such a reduction, in 1995, and four other states did likewise.[13]

In 2007, Austria became the first country to allow 16- and 17-year-olds to vote in national elections, with the expanded franchise first being consummated in the 2009 European Parliament election. A study of young voters' behaviour on that occasion showed them to be as capable as older voters to articulate their beliefs and to make voting decisions appropriate for their preferences. Their knowledge of the political process was only insignificantly lower than in older cohorts, while trust in democracy and willingness to participate in the process were markedly higher.[14] Additionally, there was evidence found for the first time of a voting boost among young people age 16–25 in Austria.[15]

During the 2000s several proposals for a reduced voting age were put forward in U.S. states, including California, Florida and Alaska,[16] but none were successful. In Oregon, Senate Joint Resolution 22 has been introduced to reduce the voting age from 18 to 16.[17] A national reduction was proposed in 2005 in Canada[18] and in the Australian state of New South Wales,[19] but these proposals were not adopted. In May 2009, Danish Member of Parliament Mogens Jensen presented an initiative to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg to lower the voting age in Europe to 16.[20]

Demands to reduce the voting age to 16 years were again brought forward by activists of the school strike for climate movement in several countries (including Germany and the UK).[21][22]


After Premier Don Dunstan introduced the Age of Majority (Reduction) Bill in October 1970, the voting age in South Australia was lowered to 18 years old in 1973.

On 21 October 2019, Greens MP Bandt introduced a bill in the House of Representatives to lower the voting age to 16.[23]

A report suggesting that consideration be given to reducing the voting age to 16 in the Australian Capital Territory in Canberra, Australia was tabled in the territorial legislature on 26 September 2007 and defeated.[24]

In 2015, federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said that the voting age should be lowered to 16.[25]


In 2007, Austria became the first member of the European Union to adopt a voting age of 16 for most purposes.[26][27] The voting age had been reduced in Austria from 19 to 18 at all levels in 1992. At that time a voting age of 16 was proposed by the Green Party, but was not adopted.[28]

The voting age for municipal elections in some states was lowered to 16 shortly after 2000.[13] Three states had made the reduction by 2003 (Burgenland, Carinthia and Styria),[13] and in May 2003 Vienna became the fourth.[29] Salzburg followed suit,[30][31] and so by the start of 2005 the total had reached at least five states out of nine.[32] As a consequence of state law, reduction of the municipal voting age in the states of Burgenland, Salzburg and Vienna resulted in the reduction of the regional voting age in those states as well.[31]

After the 2006 election, the winning SPÖ-ÖVP coalition announced on 12 January 2007 that one of its policies would be the reduction of the voting age to 16 for elections in all states and at all levels in Austria.[33] The policy was set in motion by a Government announcement on 14 March,[34] and a bill proposing an amendment to the Constitution was presented to the legislature on 2 May.[35][36] On 5 June the National Council approved the proposal following a recommendation from its Constitution Committee.[26][28][37] During the passage of the bill through the chamber relatively little opposition was raised to the reduction, with four out of five parties explicitly supporting it; indeed, there was some dispute over which party had been the first to suggest the idea. Greater controversy surrounded the other provisions of the bill concerning the Briefwahl, or postal vote, and the extension of the legislative period for the National Council from four to five years.[28] A further uncontroversial inclusion was a reduction in the candidacy age from 19 to 18. The Federal Council approved the Bill on 21 June, with no party voting against it.[38] The voting age was reduced when the Bill's provisions came into force on 1 July 2007.[39] Austria thus became the first member of the European Union, and the first of the developed world democracies, to adopt a voting age of 16 for all purposes.[26] Lowering the voting age encouraged political interest in young people in Austria. More sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds voted than eighteen-to-twenty-one-year-olds in Austria.[citation needed]


Brazil lowered the voting age from 18 to 16 in the 1988 constitution. The presidential election of 1989 was the first with the lower voting age. People between the ages 18 and 70 are required to vote. The person must be 16 full years old on the eve of the election (In years without election, the person must be 16 full years old on or before 31 December). If they turn 18 years old after the election, the vote is not compulsory. When they turn 18 years old before the election, the vote is compulsory.


Canada lowered its federal voting age from 21 to 18 in 1970.[40][41] A further reduction to 16 was proposed in 2005, but was not adopted.[18][42] It was proposed again in 2011, but was not adopted.[43]

In August 2018, in British Columbia, a group of 20 youth partnered with Dogwood BC to launch a Vote16 campaign.[44] Currently, they have unanimous support from the Union of BC Municipalities,[45] as well as endorsements from the province's Green Party of British Columbia and British Columbia New Democratic Party representatives.[46][better source needed] The campaign is now waiting for it to be brought up in the legislative assembly by the NDP and for it to pass there.[44][better source needed]

In 2020, Canadian Senator Marilou McPhedran introduced a bill to lower the federal voting age from 18 to 16.[47][48] In 2021, a group of young people filed a court challenge to lower the federal voting age from 18.[41] Several weeks later, Taylor Bachrach of the New Democratic Party (NDP) introduced a private member's bill to lower the voting age to 16.[42] The bill (C-210) was debated in May 2022.[49] The bill was defeated in its second reading with 245 members of parliament voting to oppose the bill and 77 voting to support it.[50]


As stated in the Constitution of the Republic of Cuba, the voting age is 16 for men and women.[51]


As part of their 2021 coalition deal, the SPD, Greens and FDP agreed to lower the voting age for European Elections to 16 within the course of the 20th Bundestag. They also have the aim to lower the voting age for elections to the German parliament, however this would need a change of the constitution, requiring support from opposition parties.[52]


The first proposal to lower the voting age to 16 years was submitted in parliament in 2007. A bill to lower the voting age for municipal elections reached the final reading in 2018, but was filibustered by opponents until the close of the parliamentary session.[53]

On 28 October 2023, the municipalities of Vesturbyggð and Tálknafjarðarhreppur held a referendum on unification; the voting age in this referendum was lowered to 16.[54]


Iran had been unique in awarding suffrage at 15, but raised the age to 18 in January 2007 despite the opposition of the Government.[55] In May 2007 the Iranian Cabinet proposed a bill to reverse the increase.[citation needed]


Luxembourg has compulsory voting from the age of 18. A proposal by the government to introduce optional voting for those aged 16 and 17 was rejected by 81% of voters in a June 2015 referendum.


On 20 November 2013, Malta lowered the voting age from 18 to 16 for local elections starting from 2015. The proposal had wide support from both the government and opposition, social scientists and youth organizations.

On Monday, 5 March 2018, the Maltese Parliament unanimously voted in favour of amending the constitution, lowering the official voting age from 18 to 16 for general elections, European Parliament Elections and referendums, making Malta the second state in the EU to lower its voting age to 16.[56]

New Zealand[edit]

The New Zealand Green Party MP Sue Bradford announced on 21 June 2007 that she intended to introduce her Civics Education and Voting Age Bill on the next occasion upon which a place became available for the consideration of Members' Bills.[57] When this happened on 25 July Bradford abandoned the idea, citing an adverse public reaction.[58] The Bill would have sought to reduce the voting age to 16 in New Zealand and make civics education part of the compulsory curriculum in schools.

On 21 November 2022, the Supreme Court of New Zealand ruled in Make It 16 Incorporated v Attorney-General that the voting age of 18 was "inconsistent with the bill of rights to be free from discrimination on the basis of age".[59] Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern subsequently announced that a bill to lower the voting age to 16 would be debated in parliament, requiring a supermajority to pass.[60] This bill was subsequently withdrawn in January 2024, after the Sixth National Government of New Zealand was elected.[61]

United Kingdom[edit]

The Representation of the People Act 1969 lowered the voting age from 21 to 18 for elections to the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, the first major democratic nation to do so.[4][5][6] The 1970 United Kingdom general election is the first in which this Act had effect.

Men in military service who turned 19 during the first world war were entitled to vote in 1918 irrespective of their age as part of the Representation of the People Act 1918 which also allowed some women over the age of 30 to vote. The Representation of the People (Equal Franchise) Act 1928 brought the voting age for women down to 21.[62]

The reduction of the voting age to 16 in the United Kingdom was first given serious consideration in 1999, when the House of Commons considered in Committee an amendment proposed by Simon Hughes to the Representation of the People Bill.[63] This was the first time the reduction of a voting age below 18 had ever been put to a vote in the Commons.[64] The Government opposed the amendment, and it was defeated by 434 votes to 36.[64]

The Votes at 16 coalition, a group of political and charitable organisations supporting a reduction of the voting age to 16, was launched on in 2003.[65] At that time a Private Member's Bill was also proposed in the House of Lords by Lord Lucas.[66]

In 2004, the UK Electoral Commission conducted a major consultation on the subject of the voting age and age of candidacy, and received a significant response. In its conclusions, it recommended that the voting age remain at 18.[67] In 2005, the House of Commons voted 136-128 (on a free vote) against a Private Member's Bill for a reduction in the voting age to 16 proposed by Liberal Democrat MP Stephen Williams. Parliament chose not to include a provision reducing the voting age in the Electoral Administration Act during its passage in 2006.

The report of the Power Inquiry in 2006 called for a reduction of the voting age, and of the candidacy age for the House of Commons, to 16.[68] On the same day the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, indicated in an article in The Guardian that he favoured a reduction provided it was made concurrently with effective citizenship education.[69]

The Ministry of Justice published in 2007 a Green Paper entitled The Governance of Britain, in which it proposed the establishment of a "Youth Citizenship Commission".[70] The Commission would examine the case for lowering the voting age. On launching the paper in the House of Commons, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said: "Although the voting age has been 18 since 1969, it is right, as part of that debate, to examine, and hear from young people themselves, whether lowering that age would increase participation."[71]

During the Youth Parliament debates of in 2009 in the House of Commons, Votes at 16 was debated and young people of that age group voted for it overwhelmingly as a campaign priority. In April 2015, Labour announced that it would support the policy if it won an overall majority in the 2015 general election,[72] which it failed to do.

In July 2024 however, Keir Starmer the current leader of the UK Labour Party, became elected as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. As part of the parties 2024 manifesto (in the run up to the general election) Labour maintained this previous position, Keir Starmer himself confirming that he would lower the voting age from 18 to 16 in all elections (if elected). Prior to the 2024 election, the voting age in both Scotland and Wales was and is set at 16, by the governments of both UK nations (see detail specifics below).

There was some criticism about not reducing the voting age to 16 years for the referendum on the membership in the European Union in 2016.[73][74]

YouGov poll research from 2018 shows that whilst the public are still opposed, there is growing support for extending the franchise. As of May 2019, all the main parties, with the exception of the Conservatives, back reducing the age to 16. Some have argued the Conservatives are hypocritical not to support this, as they allow 16-year-olds to vote in their leadership elections. It is also argued that all the main parties' approach is self-serving as younger voters are thought more likely to support left leaning parties and remaining in the EU, and less likely to support right leaning parties, and leaving the EU.[75]


The Scottish National Party conference voted unanimously on 27 October 2007 for a policy of reducing the voting age to 16 (the age of majority in Scotland), as well as in favour of a campaign for the necessary power to be devolved to the Scottish Parliament.[76]

In September 2011, it was announced that the voting age was likely to be reduced from 18 to 16 for the Scottish independence referendum.[77] This was approved by the Scottish Parliament in June 2013.[78]

In June 2015, the Scottish Parliament voted unanimously to reduce the voting age to 16 for elections for the Scottish Parliament and for Scottish local government elections. The voting age in Scotland remains 18 for UK general elections.[79]


Major reforms were recommended in 2017 in the 'A Parliament That Works For Wales' report, by the expert panel on Assembly Electoral Reform led by Professor Laura McAllister. It included increasing the size of the Assembly, adapting or changing the electoral system and of course reducing the age of voting to 16.[80]

The Welsh Assembly's Commission, the corporate body, introduced a bill in 2019 to reduce the voting age to 16 and change the name to Senedd.[81] The National Assembly for Wales passed the Senedd and Election (Wales) Act later that year.[82] A vote to remove this enfranchisement was defeated by 41 votes to 11. The first election to include the biggest enfranchisement in Welsh politics since 1969 was the 2021 Senedd election.[83]

The Welsh Government also legislated for the enfranchisement of 16 and 17-year-olds in the Local Government and Elections (Wales) Act, which received royal assent in 2021. The changes were in place for local Welsh elections in 2022. The voting age in Wales remains 18 for UK general elections.[84][85][86]

British Overseas Territories[edit]

The voting age in the British Overseas Territories (those parts of the British Realm that lie outside the archipelago of the British Isles, which, before 1983, were termed British colonies, and, from 1983 to 2002, British Dependent Territories) for the national (ie, "British") Parliamentary elections is the same as in that part of the realm that lies within the British Isles, although - as no electoral district has ever been created for any British Overseas Territory, British nationals from the territories must first establish residency in an existing electoral district in order to exercise their voting rights in national elections. Local elected legislatures were established in Virginia in 1619 and Bermuda (originally settled as part of Virginia) in 1620. Sovereignty remained with the national (British) government, with the British Parliament asserting its right to legislate for the colonies,[87] though in practice certain competencies were delegated by the British government to the local governments (varying depending upon the degree of representation in the local government of each colony). Since the 1960s, most of the remaining colonies have been given elected legislatures similar to Bermuda's (or the Councils that advise the appointed governors, originally made up only of appointees, now include elected members), with the enfranchisement for local elections determined by local legislation (subject, like all local legislation, to the approval of the national government). In Anguilla, Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, the Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Montserrat, the Pitcairn Islands, Saint Helena (and presumably Ascension Island and Tristan da Cunha), and Turks and Caicos Islands the current voting ages for local elections are all 18. There are no permanent inhabitants, and no local legislatures in British Antarctic Territory, British Indian Ocean Territory, and South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. Under the agreement with Cyprus by which Britain retained the Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia, the British government agreed not to set up and administer "colonies" and not to allow new settlement of people in the Sovereign Base Areas other than for temporary purposes. There is no local legislature and consequently there are no local elections.

Crown Dependencies[edit]

As of 2023, the voting age for local government elections in all British Crown Dependencies (which are not parts of the British Realm, but administered similarly to British Overseas Territories although the power to pass legislation affecting the islands ultimately rests with the King-in-Council, rather than the British Parliament) is set at 16.[citation needed]

Moves to lower the voting age to 16 were first successful in each of the three British Crown dependencies from 2006 to 2008. The Isle of Man was the first to amend its law in 2006, when it reduced the voting age to 16 for its general elections, with the House of Keys approving the move by 19 votes to 4.[88]

Jersey followed suit in 2007, when it approved in principle a reduction of the voting age to 16. The States of Jersey voted narrowly in favour, by 25 votes to 21,[89] and the legislative amendments were adopted.[90] The law was sanctioned by Order in Council,[91][92] and was brought into force in time for the general elections in late 2008.[93][94]

In 2007, a proposal[95][96] for a reduction made by the House Committee of the States of Guernsey, and approved by the States' Policy Committee, was adopted by the assembly by 30 votes to 15.[96][97] An Order in Council sanctioned the law,[91] and it was registered at the Court of Guernsey. It came into force immediately, and the voting age was accordingly reduced in time for the 2008 Guernsey general election.[98]

In 2022, both Alderney and Sark passed legislation which lowered the voting age to 16 for all elections going forward.[1]

United States[edit]

Blue indicates a state that allows 17-year-olds who will turn 18 on or before election day to vote in caucuses or primaries. Pink indicates states that allow 17-year-olds to participate in presidential caucuses, but may not vote in primary elections for other offices.

In the United States, the debate about lowering voting age from 21 to 18 began during World War II and intensified during the Vietnam War, when most of those subjected to the draft were too young to vote, and the image of young men being forced to risk their lives in the military without the privileges of voting successfully pressured legislators to lower the voting age nationally and in many states. By 1968, several states had lowered the voting age below 21 years: Alaska and Hawaii's minimum age was 20,[99] while Georgia[99] and Kentucky's was 18.[100] In 1970, the Supreme Court in Oregon v. Mitchell ruled that Congress had the right to regulate the minimum voting age in federal elections; however, it decided it could not regulate it at local and state level.

The 26th Amendment (passed and ratified in 1971)[101] prevents states from setting a voting age higher than 18.[102] Except for the express limitations provided for in Amendments XIV, XV, XIX and XXVI, voter qualifications for House and Senate elections are largely delegated to the States under Article I, Section 2 and Amendment XVII of the United States Constitution, which respectively state that "The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States, and the Electors in each State shall have the Qualifications requisite for Electors of the most numerous Branch of the State Legislature." and "The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, elected by the people thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote. The electors in each State shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the State legislatures."[103]

Seventeen states permit 17-year-olds to vote in primary elections and caucuses if they will be 18 by election day: Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Mexico,[104] North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Virginia, Vermont, and West Virginia. Iowa, Minnesota, and Nevada allow 17-year-olds to participate in all presidential caucuses, but may not vote in primary elections for other offices. Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Washington, and Wyoming allow 17-year-olds to participate in only Democratic caucuses, but not in the Republican caucus.[105]

All states allow someone not yet 18 to preregister to vote. Fifteen states — California, Colorado, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, Virginia, and Washington — and Washington, D.C., allow 16-year-olds to preregister. In Maine, Nevada, New Jersey, and West Virginia, 17-year-olds can preregister. Alaska allows a teen to preregister within 90 days of their 18th birthday. Georgia, Iowa, and Missouri allow 17.5-year-olds to preregister if they turn 18 before the next election. Texas allows someone 17 year and 10 months old to preregister. The remaining states, excepting North Dakota, do not specify an age for preregistration so long as the teen will be 18 by the next election (usually the next general election). North Dakota does not require voter registration.[106]

On 3 April 2019, Andrew Yang became the first major presidential candidate to advocate for the United States to lower its voting age to 16.[107] At 16, Americans do not have hourly limits imposed on their work, and they pay taxes. According to Yang, their livelihoods are directly impacted by legislation, and they should therefore be allowed to vote for their representatives.[108]

In 2018, a bill in the Council of the District of Columbia was proposed to lower the voting age to 16, which would make the federal district the first jurisdiction to lower the voting age for federal level elections.[109] In 2019, Washington D.C., Council Member Charles Allen sponsored a debate on whether or not the city should lower the voting age to 16 for all elections, including the presidential election in the city. Allen gained a magnitude of public support although the measure to lower the age of voting stalled.[110]

Youth voting at the local level[edit]

In 2013, the City of Takoma Park, Maryland, became the first place in the United States to lower its voting age to 16 for municipal elections and referendums.[111][112] As of 2024, Greenbelt, Hyattsville, Riverdale Park, and Mount Rainier, all in Prince George's County, Maryland, as well as Somerset and Chevy Chase in Montgomery County, had followed suit.[113][114]

In 2016, the city of Berkeley, California passed a bill that allowed the voting age to be 16 in school board elections.[110] In May 2020, Oakland City Council President Rebecca Kaplan authored Oakland Measure QQ, which proposed lowering the voting age to 16, for school board elections.[115] The Oakland City Council voted unanimously to put this measure on the ballot.[116] On 6 November 2020, the city of Oakland, California voted to pass Oakland Measure QQ, making Oakland the largest United States city to partially enfranchise sixteen year old voters.[117][118] This ballot measure passed with 67.88% of the vote.[119] However, as of the 2022 elections, Alameda County had not implemented the measure and 16- and 17-year-olds in Berkeley and Oakland remained unable to cast ballots in school board elections.[120]

In Massachusetts, efforts to lower the voting age for local elections to 16 have been made in Ashfield, Brookline, Cambridge, Concord, Harwich, Lowell, Northampton, Shelburne, Somerville, and Wendell, but ultimately failed to gain necessary approval from the state legislature. In November 2022, the Boston City Council approved lowering the local voting age to 16, but the petition must (as of December 2022) still be approved by the state.[121][122]

Debate on increasing the voting age[edit]

Presidential candidate in the 2024 Republican Party presidential primaries Vivek Ramaswamy has indicated that he favors raising the voting age to 25 in most circumstances. The policy change, which would have to be done through a constitutional amendment, would only allow for citizens between 18 and 24 to vote if they are enlisted in the military, work as first-responder personnel, or pass a civics test.[123]


A request to lower the voting age to 16 was made during consideration of revisions to the Constitution of Venezuela in 2007. Cilia Flores, president of the National Assembly, announced that the Mixed Committee for Constitutional Reform had found the idea acceptable. Following approval in the legislature[124] the amendment formed part of the package of constitutional proposals, and was defeated in the 2007 referendum.

Maximum voting age[edit]

There are occasional calls for a maximum voting age, on the grounds that older people have less of a stake in the future of the country or jurisdiction.[125] In fact, however, the only jurisdiction with a maximum voting age is the Vatican City State whose sovereign, (the Pope) is elected by the College of Cardinals. A Cardinal must be below the age of 80 on the date of the previous Pope's death or resignation, in order to vote to elect a new Pope.[126]

List by country[edit]

18 is the most common voting age. In some countries and territories 16 or 17 year-olds can vote in at least some elections. Examples of places with full enfranchisement for those aged 16 or 17 include Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua, East Timor, Greece, and Indonesia.

The only known maximum voting age is in the Holy See, where the franchise for electing a new Pope in the Papal Conclave is restricted to Cardinals under the age of 80.

Minimum voting age by country
  No elections
  age 25
  age 21
  age 20
  age 19
  age 18
  age 17
  age 16
  Unknown/No data

The following is an alphabetical list of voting ages in the various countries and territories of the world.[127]

Country Age Comment
 Afghanistan N/A No elections[128]
 Albania 18
 Algeria 18
 American Samoa 18
 Andorra 18
 Angola 18
 Anguilla 18
 Antigua and Barbuda 18
 Argentina 16 Compulsory between 18 and 70. However, persons 15 years of age are permitted to vote in primary elections if they will be 16 years of age on or before the day of the general election.[129]
 Armenia 18
 Aruba 18
 Australia 18 Compulsory
 Austria 16 [130]
 Azerbaijan 18
 Bahamas 18
 Bahrain 20 [131]
 Bangladesh 18
 Barbados 18
 Belarus 18
 Belgium 18 16 in European elections since 2023[132]
 Belize 18
 Benin 18
 Bermuda 18
 Bhutan 18
 Bolivia 18 Universal and compulsory
 Bosnia and Herzegovina 18
 Botswana 18
 Brazil 16 Compulsory for 18 to 70; optional for illiterate citizens.
 British Virgin Islands 18
 Brunei 18 Village elections only
 Bulgaria 18
 Burkina Faso 18
 Burundi 18
 Cambodia 18
 Cameroon 20
 Canada 18
 Cape Verde 18
 Cayman Islands 18
 Central African Republic 18
 Chad 18
 Chile 18
 China 18
 Cocos (Keeling) Islands 18
 Colombia 18
 Comoros 18
 Democratic Republic of the Congo 18
 Republic of the Congo 18
 Cook Islands 18
 Costa Rica 18
 Côte d'Ivoire 18
 Croatia 18
 Cuba 16 [132]
 Curaçao 18
 Cyprus 18
 Czech Republic 18
 Denmark 18
 Djibouti 18
 Dominica 18
 Dominican Republic 18 Married persons regardless of age (members of the armed forces and national police cannot vote)
 East Timor 17
 Ecuador 16 Universal, compulsory for literate persons ages 18–65, optional for other eligible voters
 Egypt 18 [133]
 El Salvador 18
 Equatorial Guinea 18
 Eritrea 18
 Estonia 18 16 for local elections[132]
 Eswatini 18
 Ethiopia 18
 Falkland Islands 18
 Faroe Islands 18
 Fiji 18 As of 2013 Constitution
 Finland 18
 France 18
 French Guiana 18
 French Polynesia 18
 Gabon 18
 Gambia 18
 Georgia 18
 Germany 18 Voting age 16 for state elections:

 Baden-Württemberg,  Brandenburg,  Bremen,  Hamburg,  Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and  Schleswig-Holstein.

Voting age 16 for municipal elections:

 Baden-Württemberg,  Berlin,  Brandenburg,  Bremen,  Hamburg,  Mecklenburg-Vorpommern,  Lower Saxony,  North Rhine-Westphalia,  Saxony-Anhalt,  Schleswig-Holstein and  Thuringia.[134][circular reference]

16 in European elections[135]

 Ghana 18
 Gibraltar 18 Universal, plus other British citizens who have been residents six months or more
 Greece 17 17 from July 2016 onwards,[136] was 18 prior. People that turn 17 in the year of the elections can also vote. This means that if a 16-year-old teen was born in the last day of 2005, he/she can vote in an election taking place in 2022.
 Greenland 18
 Grenada 18
 Guadeloupe 18
 Guam 18 US citizens, but do not vote in US presidential elections
 Guatemala 18 Active-duty members of the armed forces may not vote and are restricted to their barracks on election day.
 Guernsey 16 [137][132]
 Guinea 18
 Guinea-Bissau 18
 Guyana 18
 Haiti 18
 Honduras 18
 Hong Kong 18 Direct election 18 years of age; universal for permanent residents living in the territory of Hong Kong for the past seven years; indirect election limited to about 220,000 members of functional constituencies and a 1,200-member election committee drawn from broad regional groupings, municipal organizations, and central government bodies.
 Hungary 18 16 if married.[138]
 Iceland 18
 India 18
 Indonesia 17 No threshold for married persons.[139] The military and police cannot vote.[140]
 Iran 18 Changed from 15 to 18 in 2007, returned to 15 in 2009 and returned to 18 in 2011.[141][142][143][144]
 Iraq 18
 Ireland 18
 Isle of Man 16 [132]
 Israel 18 17 for municipal elections; 17 year olds can also vote in national elections held after their 18th Hebrew calendar birthday.
 Italy 18 Lowered from 21 in 1975 for Chamber of Deputies elections and referendums, and from 25 in 2021 for Senate elections.[11]
 Jamaica 18
 Japan 18 Lowered from 20 in June 2016. The voting age for constitutional referendums was lowered from 20 to 18 in June 2018.[145][146]
 Jersey 16 [132]
 Jordan 18
 Kazakhstan 18
 Kenya 18
 Kiribati 18
 North Korea 17 Members of the military have the right to vote, regardless of age.[147]
 South Korea 18 Lowered from 19 in December 2019.[148]
 Kosovo 18 [149][150]
 Kuwait 21 For those not in the military or police forces; all voters must have been citizens for 20 years; current proposal for reduction to 18.[151]
 Kyrgyzstan 18
 Laos 18
 Latvia 18
 Lebanon 21
 Lesotho 18
 Liberia 18
 Libya 18
 Liechtenstein 18 Compulsory [152]
 Lithuania 18
 Luxembourg 18 Compulsory until the age of 75. A proposal to lower the voting age to 16 was rejected in 2015 in a nationwide referendum (81% "no"-votes).
 Macau 18 Direct election 18 years of age, universal for permanent residents living in Macau for the past seven years; indirect election limited to organizations registered as "corporate voters" (973 are currently registered) and a 300-member Election Committee drawn from broad regional groupings, municipal organizations, and central government bodies.
 Madagascar 18
 North Macedonia 18
 Malawi 18
 Malaysia 18 Lowered from 21 in 2019 however did not take effect until 15 December 2021.
 Maldives 18
 Mali 18
 Malta 16 [56]
 Marshall Islands 18
 Martinique 18
 Mauritania 18
 Mauritius 18
 Mayotte 18
 Mexico 18
 Federated States of Micronesia 18
 Moldova 18
 Monaco 18
 Mongolia 18
 Montenegro 18
 Montserrat 18
 Morocco 18
 Mozambique 18
 Myanmar 18
 Namibia 18
 Nauru 20
   Nepal 18
 Netherlands 18
 New Caledonia 18
 New Zealand 18
 Nicaragua 16 [132]
 Niger 18
 Nigeria 18
 Niue 18
 Norfolk Island 18
 North Macedonia 18
 Northern Cyprus 18 [153]
 Northern Mariana Islands 18 Indigenous inhabitants are US citizens but do not vote in US presidential elections
 Norway 18 However, persons 17 years of age are permitted to vote in parliamentary elections if they will be 18 years of age in the year the election is held.
 Oman 21 Except for members of the military and police.
 Pakistan 18 Reserved parliamentary seats for women and non-Muslims
 Palau 18
 Palestine 18 West Bank and Gaza.[154]
 Panama 18
 Papua New Guinea 18
 Paraguay 18 Universal and compulsory until the age of 75
 Peru 18 Universal and compulsory until the age of 70; (members of the military and national police could not vote until a Constitutional Reform in 2005[155]
 Philippines 18 For youth councils: 15 to 30[156]
 Pitcairn Islands 18 Universal with three years' residency
 Poland 18
 Portugal 18
 Puerto Rico 18 Island residents are US citizens but do not vote in US presidential elections. 16-year-olds may vote in local elections.
 Qatar 18 Naturalized citizens cannot vote.[157]
 Réunion 18
 Romania 18 Planned lowering of the voting age to 16 (for local elections and for European Parliament elections) is currently underway and has been approved by the Senate in early September 2022. However the government opposes the decision as "unconstitutional". Brought into debate by the Romanian Students' Union in March 2022.[158]
 Russia 18
 Rwanda 18
 Saint Helena 18
 Saint Kitts and Nevis 18
 Saint Lucia 18
 Saint Pierre and Miquelon 18
 Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 18
 Samoa 21
 San Marino 18
 São Tomé and Príncipe 18
 Saudi Arabia 18
 Senegal 18
 Serbia 18
 Seychelles 18 [159]
 Sierra Leone 18
 Singapore 21
 Sint Maarten 18
 Slovakia 18
 Slovenia 18
 Solomon Islands 19
 Somalia 18
 South Africa 18
 South Sudan 18
 Spain 18
 Sri Lanka 18
 Sudan 18 [160]
 Suriname 18
 Sweden 18
  Switzerland 18 16 for cantonal and municipal elections in the canton of Glarus[161][162]
 Syria 18
 Taiwan 20 18 for referendums (since 2017). On November 26, 2022, a constitutional referendum was held in order to lower the voting age from 20 to 18 years. Although a majority of votes were obtained in favor of lowering the voting age, the threshold of half the eligible voters was not reached and the referendum was declared unsuccessful.
 Tajikistan 18
 Tanzania 18
 Thailand 18 Being a Thai citizen since birth, or at least five years
 Togo 18
 Tokelau 21
 Tonga 21
 Trinidad and Tobago 18
 Tunisia 18 With some exceptions[163]
 Turkey 18
 Turkmenistan 18
 Turks and Caicos Islands 18
 Tuvalu 18
 Uganda 18
 Ukraine 18 [164]
 United Arab Emirates N/A Elections for the Federal National Council are voted on by members of each emirate's electoral college. Electoral college members are selected by the ruler of each emirate, but must be at least 25, and there must be at least 300 members for every seat allocated to each emirate.[165][166][167]
 United Kingdom 18 18 for general elections to the House of Commons, Northern Ireland Assembly and local government elections in England and Northern Ireland.

16 for the Scottish independence referendum, Scottish Parliament elections and Scottish local government elections.[79]

16 for Senedd (Welsh Parliament) elections and Welsh local elections.

 United States 18 However, in many states, persons 17 years of age are permitted to vote in primary elections if they will be 18 years of age on or before the day of the general election. Some municipalities allow 16-year-olds to vote in local elections.
 Uruguay 18
 Uzbekistan 18 [168]
 Vanuatu 18
 Venezuela 18
 Vietnam 18
 United States Virgin Islands 18 Island residents are U.S. citizens but do not vote in U.S. presidential elections.
 Wallis and Futuna 18
 Western Sahara N/A
 Yemen 18
 Zambia 18
 Zimbabwe 18

Chronology of lowering the voting age to 18[edit]

The following is a chronological list of the dates upon which countries lowered the voting age to 18; unless otherwise indicated, the reduction was from 21. In some cases the age was lowered decrementally, and so the "staging points" are also given. Some information is also included on the relevant legal instruments involved.

Chronology of lowering the voting age to 16[edit]

This is a further list, similar to the above but of the dates upon which countries or territories lowered the voting age to 16; unless otherwise indicated, the reduction was from 18.





  • Argentina: 1 November 2012. Voting for teenagers between 16 and 18 years of age became optional.[213]
  • Malta: 20 November 2013. Motion passed in parliament to lower the voting age to 16 at local council elections starting from 2015.[214]
  • Scotland: 18 September 2014. 16- and 17-year-olds were given the vote for the independence referendum. This was subsequently extended permanently for local and Scottish Parliament elections as of the 2016 Parliament election.[215]
  • Estonia: 6 May 2015, in local elections only.


Organizations in favour of lowering the voting age[edit]

The following are political parties and other campaigning organisations that have either endorsed a lower voting age or who favour its removal.

Alphabetical list of countries[edit]












In 2013, the Constitutional Convention was asked to consider reducing the voting age to 17 and recommended lowering it to 16.[238] The then government agreed to hold a referendum,[239] but in 2015 postponed it indefinitely to give priority to other referendums.[240]






New Zealand[edit]







United Kingdom[edit]

United States[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The 1970 United Kingdom general election is the first in which this Act had effect.


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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]