Poiares Maduro says there is no scientific evidence to advise against voting at 16

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Former minister Miguel Poiares Maduro argued today that there is no scientific evidence that discourages voting at 16, considering that the fact that this measure is not adopted in Portugal is “contradictory to other legislative options”.

“I understand that there is no justification for limiting [the vote] to 18 years: I think the only justification would be if we had scientific evidence that cognitive capacity, to form a rational autonomous will, only emerged or was clear from the age of 18. Nowadays, science tells us that this is not the case”, said Miguel Poiares Maduro at a hearing in the eventual commission for constitutional revision, made at the request of the PSD.

The former Deputy Minister and Regional Development of the XIX Constitutional Government – led by Pedro Passos Coelho – was one of the coordinators of the current PSD constitutional revision project, which includes the proposal to extend the exercise of voting to 16 years, as in the projects of BE, Livre and PAN.

Poiares Maduro pointed out that this measure is already being applied in Greece and Austria and argued that it is an “international trend”.

“What explains this trend is the principle of equality and the university of the right to suffrage: in essence, the basic assumption is that all those who are subjects of political power must have a voice in the political process. It is the exceptions to this principle that must be justified,” he said.

According to the university professor, current science indicates that “the age at which cognitive capacity and autonomy of will are attained” is precisely 16, so “if the scientific evidence does not justify the [18-year] limit, it should not exist”.

Poiares Maduro considered it “very dangerous to use as an argument the idea that people have the capacity to be adequately informed and have the necessary educational training” to be able to vote, maintaining that it is “a return to census principles in access to the vote”.

“When there is a lot of talk about the issue of maturity, we must ask ourselves from the outset whether the maturity criterion is sufficiently objective, clear, to allow this restriction, or is it a way of introducing arbitrariness?” he asked.

Miguel Poiares Maduro also said that the fact that voting in Portugal is only possible from the age of 18 is in “contradiction with other legislative policy options”, stressing that the Portuguese legal system provides that, from the age of 16, one is criminally responsible or can change gender.

Following this intervention, PS MP Pedro Delgado Alves argued that the age of majority criterion should continue to determine electoral capacity, stressing that 18 years of age is “an age boundary that represents the end of the educational path, the beginning of professional emancipation and gradual autonomy”.

“The training dimension seems to us the most important: we want informed voters and it seems to us that waiting for the completion of everyone’s compulsory training is a good argument,” he said.

The PS’s stance drew criticism from the PSD, IL and Left Bloc, who accused the Socialists of lacking progressivism.

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