There are 13 countries in the world in which people who have reached the age of 18 still have to wait until they are 19, 20 or 21 years old until they’ve reached the right to vote.

As of September of 2021 a minimum voting age in the Solomon Islands is 19, in Bahrain, Cameroon, Nauru and Taiwan the voting age is 20, and in Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Samoa, Singapore, Tokelau, Tonga the voting age is 21. The minimum voting age in Malaysia is also 21, though the Malaysian government will soon be lowering the national voting age to 18.

The Higher Voting Ages Are No Longer Appropriate

There is no United Nations convention or any other international conventions which require the voting age be 18 throughout the world.  Although it is not uncommon for UNHCR workers to assist with overseeing elections in many countries throughout the world, voting laws are not directly regulated by any UN conventions. 

The countries which have decided that the national voting age in their countries should be 19, 20 or 21 are not violating any international conventions.  However, they are violating some very basic common sense.

Some of the countries in which the voting age is 19, 20 and 21 are members of IGO’s such as the Arab League and the African Union.  While people do not directly vote for representatives in these two IGO’s as people vote for their MEP’s in Europe, the governments of the member states select their ambassadors and their representatives who will represent each country in those two IGO’s. 

Because the representatives and the ambassadors to the Arab League and the African Union are selected by the national governments of each member state, when people vote in their national elections in the countries which participate in those two IGO’s they are also indirectly contributing to the decision as to the selection of politicians who will represent them in their regional IGO’s. 

By denying people who are aged 18 the right to vote, these governments are denying people the ability to actively directly participate in the selection of politicians who will represent them and make the decisions which will affect many aspects of their lives.

And Possibly Even Younger?

The national legislatures in a number of countries have opted to lower the minimum voting age to 16 and 17.  As of the time that I’m writing this article, the national voting age in East Timor, Greece and Indonesia is 17, and in Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Ecuador, Guernsey, the Isle Of Man, Malta, Nicaragua, Scotland, Wales as well as in Wallis and Futuna, the voting age is 16. 

In Israel, the minimum voting age for municipal elections is 17, though people cannot vote in the national elections until they turn 18. 

In some states in the U.S., people who are 17 years old can vote in the primary elections if they are going to be 18 years old by the date of the general elections.

The national voting age in Cuba is 16, though it is important to remember that in Cuba, people are only voting for their local politicians, the Communist Party Of Cuba retains a stranglehold on the national assembly.

The national voting age is also 17 in north Korea, though as a journalist who writes a politics column, I do want to point out here that almost no credible journalists anywhere in the world take the North Korean electoral system seriously, their elections are undoubtedly the most fraudulent elections in the entire world.

While I feel that the lowering of national voting ages to 16 and 17 is quite possibly very potentially healthy for those countries, I do not feel that it is as necessary to lower the voting age to 17 or to 16 in every country as it is to lower it to 18 in the countries which have still not done so. 

Scott Benowitz

Scott Benowitz is a staff writer for Afterimage Review. He holds an MSc in Comparative Politics from The London School of Economics & Political Science and a B.A. in International Studies from Reed...