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Voting at 16?

Principal Investigator:

Prof. Dr. Sigrid Roßteutscher; Prof. Dr. Armin Schäfer

The decrease and growing social imbalance of voter turnout have triggered a reform debate about the electoral right to vote. One of the most prominent ideas is the proposal to lower the voters’ age at 16. In a number of Bundesländer, it has already happened at the state diet and municipal elections. However, there is scarcely knowledge, whether this measure has the hoped-for impact. The current debate on the lowering of the voters’ age overlooks a very important aspect, which we would like to dedicate our following project: young people can selectively lose their right to vote in particular because of the reforms – with unknown effects for further elections. Such a case occurred for example in the period from spring 2017 and spring 2018 in Schleswig-Holstein. There takes place a state diet election on May 7, 2017 (with voters’ age 16), just few months before the national elections in September 2017 (with voters’ age 18), which happen only few months before the municipal elections in May 2018 (with voters’ age 16). We recruit an online panel of young people from Schleswig-Holstein via mail, whom we question shortly after each of the three elections. We are hoping for important knowledge after the evaluation of this panel study, concerning how first time voters adhere to voting and elections and especially if and what consequences the lowering of the voters’ age has.

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