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Argentina Lowers Voting Age to 16

On November 1, 2012, Argentinian lawmakers approved a law that allows citizens to vote starting at 16 years of age. However, voting is only compulsory for those over 18.

The blog Juventudes [es] published the modifications made to the Argentinian Citizenship Act 26774 to extend the right to vote:

Artículo 1º: Son electores los argentinos nativos y por opción, desde los dieciséis (16) años de edad, y los argentinos naturalizados, desde los dieciocho (18) años de edad, que no tengan ninguna de las inhabilitaciones previstas en esta ley.

Article 1º: Native Argentinians are voters by choice, starting at sixteen (16) years of age, and naturalized Argentinians, from eighteen (18) years of age, provided that they have no foreseeable legal disqualifications.

Regarding the composition of votes for and against the reform in the Chamber of Deputies, the daily Telam [es] published the following results:

La iniciativa -que había recibido media sanción del Senado una semana antes- fue aprobada con 131 votos a favor, 2 en contra y 1 abstención, ya que la mayoría de las bancadas opositores se retiraron del recinto antes de que se concretara la votación.

The initiative -which had received preliminary approval from the Senate one week earlier- was passed with 131 votes in favor, 2 against and 1 abstention, as the majority of the opposition left the building before the vote finalized.

Momento en que la Presidente Cristina Fernandez entrega los nuevos documentos de identificacion que habilita a las personas de 16 años a votar - Imagen de  www.casarosada.gov.ar bajo Licencia Creative Commons

President Cristina Fernández presents the new identification documents that allows citizens of 16 years of age to vote. Image from www.casarosada.gov.ar under Creative Commons license.

National Deputy José Brillo analyzes and comments on why he abstained from the vote on his webpage [es]:

El proyecto no forma parte de las prioridades, ni de las metas u objetivos de los jóvenes. Por el contrario siento que el proyecto está más relacionado con inquietudes de los adultos, que con las necesidades, y las motivaciones de los jóvenes. El proyecto propone conceder a los adolescentes el derecho de votar, pero curiosamente es un segmento en el que se comprueba un desgranamiento del 56% en su educación media, si pensamos antes en el voto que en la educación, o antes que tener mayor acceso a políticas deportivas, recreativas, o culturales, estamos alterando las prioridades.

The project is not part of the priorities, or the goals, or the objectives of the youth. On the contrary, I feel the project is more related to the concerns of adults than the needs and motivations of the youth. The project proposes to give adolescents the right to vote, but it is curiously a segment in which 56% either don't complete or lag behind in completing their secondary education, if we think about voting before education, or before having greater access to sport, recreational or cultural policies, we are changing our priorities.

As for the optional vote for those under 18 years of age, Brillo writes:

Respecto del carácter optativo del voto, quiero marcar también mis diferencias, y planteo esto porque más allá de los gustos, las preferencias y las consideraciones personales, el Art. 37 de la Constitución Nacional establece que el voto en la Argentina es obligatorio y universal.

In respect to the optional nature of the vote, I also want to point out my objection, and I raise this issue because beyond personal tastes, preferences and personal considerations, Article 37 of the National Constitution establishes that in Argentina the vote is universal and obligatory.

What do new young voters think?

Florencia Acuña (@floracunia) [es] writes:

@floracunia: hoy estaba con el cartel del voto a los 16 en el cole , y ari me dijo yo no quiero votar apenas me se atar los cordones ! ajajjajaj 15 años

@floracunia: today in school I had the poster [promoting] the vote at 16, and ari told me I don't want to vote because I don't even know how tie my shoes ! hahahaha 15 years old

Meanwhile, user Mar (@marianelaoriont) [es] talks about feeling nervous:

@marianelaoriont: Estoy re nervioso por el voto a los 16 años, no me decido como votar todavía. Si haciendo ta te ti o zapatito blanco zapatito azul

@marianelaoriont: I am super nervous about being able to vote at 16, i haven't decided how to vote yet. By doing tic tac toe or white shoe blue shoe

A debated issue in Argentina is the immunity of the underage when it comes to criminal offenses. A large sector of society assumes that those between 16 and 18 years of age are criminally immune, which is not the case. This can be seen in some tweets, like the following by Ezequiel (@Ezepereyra22) [es]:

@Ezepereyra22: Ya es ley el voto a los 16 años, pero si con esa misma edad vienen y te pegan un tiro en la frente para afanarte el celular, no pasa nada.

@Ezepereyra22: The ability to vote at 16 is now a law, but if at the same age they come and shoot you in the face and steal your cellphone, nothing happens.

Andrés Escudero refers to this issue in the blog El Estadista [es]:

La inimputabilidad es un argumento que han adoptado los promotores de las políticas de mano dura. Haciéndose eco de la asociación entre juventud y delincuencia, han impulsado la idea de que a partir de esta nueva ley un menor de 18 años podría sufragar para Presidente a la vez que “matar, robar y violar” sin ir preso, justamente por su condición de menor. Sea por el motivo que fuere, la idea de que los menores de dieciocho son inimputables se apoderó de buena parte de la sociedad hasta convertirse en sentido común

Immunity is an argument that those who want to rule with an iron fist have adopted. Echoing the association between youth and crime, they have pushed forth the idea that with this law a minor could vote for President at the same time as “killing, robbing, and raping” without going to jail, just because he or she is a minor. For whatever reason, the idea that minors are immune from prosecution has seized a good part of society to the point that it's become common sense.

Escudero also analyzes the outstanding debt of the National Congress in regards to how minors between 16 and 18 years of age are tried in court:

En este campo, una deuda que el Congreso Nacional aún no ha saldado es la sanción de un Régimen de Responsabilidad Penal Juvenil, para que los jóvenes en conflicto con la ley penal puedan ser juzgados con respeto de las mismas garantías que asisten a cualquier ciudadano.

In this field, the National Congress has yet to pass a Juvenile Penal Responsibility System, so that young people who are in trouble with the law can be tried with respect to the same guarantees that any other citizen has.

Considering these changes, the candidates for the legislative election in 2013 will have to tweak their strategies to win the youth vote [es], which represents more than one million potential new voters.

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