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Children's Suffrage: A Critique of the Importance of Voters' Knowledge for the Well-Being of Democracy

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That children should not have the right to vote is something that most people think of as self-evident. It is so obvious that almost none of the prominent democratic theorists have given it any serious consideration. It is a non-issue.

In this paper, I question this "self-evident" view. The main reason why children are excluded from the suffrage is that they lack political competence. By reviewing the research on political knowledge among voters, however, I show that the fear of the ignorant voter has been vastly exaggerated. If democracy works well with a large number of adult voters with little or no knowledge of politics, it should also work with children voting.

The article also discusses the role of parents. The idea that children should have the right to vote very much depends on whether we accept that parents can act as their children's trustees or not. My argument is that this should not be a problem. Acting through representatives is already an accepted practice in the democratic system. Parents are already considered the children's legal representatives. There is no reason why they could not be thought of as their political representatives as well.

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/content/journals/10.1163/092755608x267120
2008-03-01
2015-09-02

Affiliations: 1: Department of Government, Uppsala University

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