Votes at 16 in Germany: Examining Subnational Variation
In Germany, eleven of sixteen states have lowered the voting age for municipal elections or state and municipal elections from 18 to 16. This chapter describes the German case and provides evidence on the political consequences of these reforms. Using the so-called representative electoral statistics, the authors show that turnout among 16- to 20-year olds is higher than among citizens up to ten years older. Even though comparisons of turnout among 16- and 17-year olds with that among 18- and 19-year-olds remain inconclusive, the authors support a lowering of the voting age, because it would imply that more citizens experience their first election when 20 years or younger, which should be beneficial for higher turnout rates in the long run. As vote choices are concerned, there seems to be a slight tendency for younger voters to vote for left parties, in particular, the Greens, as well as smaller parties more generally, while the Christian Democratic CDU does worse. Germany’s political parties seem to be aware of this: Center-left governing coalitions passed almost all reforms in states where the voting age was regulated by state law rather than states where state constitutions had to be changed.
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