Junior Elections


Low youth engagement in elections and knowledge about politics presents a significant concern for modern democracies. This issue stems from various factors, the most important one clearly being the lack of touchpoints with democracy. Without such, an inherent disinterest in democracy is created. Trust in the democratic process, elections and the fairness of democracy could be at risk as the structures we know them as.


Considering the above-mentioned challenge, we suggest holding separate junior elections at every general election. Junior elections will be a separately held election for everyone between six and the legal voting age. The idea is to simulate the election process from a young age. Prior to national elections, adults normally receive a letter with instructions and an invitation to vote. Our proposal suggests that citizens under the legal voting age will receive invitations as well, except it will be to vote in the Junior Election. This letter contains detailed educational material on the voting process in a language appropriate for different age groups. Therefore, it will be possible for every age group to achieve a basic understanding of the electoral process and the power of voting. The Junior elections will be held on the same day as the actual elections. Children will be able to visit the polling station alongside their legal guardians. They will have the opportunity to fill out the same ballot as them in a voting booth. The votes of the junior elections will be collected in a separate ballot box and will be counted at the end of election day. While the votes have no actual impact on the election results, the votes will be analysed and proclaimed in national media. The voices of youth will be represented in public and discussed, which will shape the public discourse.

The first foundational thesis for this proposal is that voting is a habit. The earlier the habit of voting is learned, the more likely it is that children will stick to this behaviour. A study by the University of Sheffield and the University of Edinburgh showed that giving younger people the right to vote improves long-term voting behaviour. This will be taken a step further by implementing this proposal.

The second thesis is that this habit can be best learned by observing others do it (observational learning). However, most children are not introduced to the democratic system by their legal guardian, since oftentimes, when citizens can vote for the first time (between 18 and 22), they don’t live with them any more. Since political education is not on the curriculum in most European countries, legal guardians are one of the most important conveyors for kids and children to learn about democracy.

Children are more open and curious, and the things that captivate them can often continue to hold a special place in their hearts as they age. Habits developed in childhood often endure into adulthood, influenced by the brain’s heightened plasticity during youth.


One might say, children at age 6 don’t know anything about politics. That might be true for most. But that’s exactly why it is important to provide opportunities and touchpoints with democracy, so children start asking, thinking, and learning about it. Junior elections have no real implications, but they are specific enough to provide such a learning opportunity. Through junior elections, kids and children experience the democratic system way before they can take part in it, which will create long-lasting positive associations with the political system and therefore strengthen the democracy in itself. It is very likely that junior elections will increase voter turnout in the long run as various psychological studies on habit building prove. Furthermore, junior elections shouldn’t be a substitute for lowering the minimum voting age to 16, it is one of the steps to make the youth educated enough to be able to vote responsibly at age 16 and complement political education in school.

The impact will be double-sided: Children are getting encouraged to vote by their legal guardians at a young age, which will possibly lead to traditions or common habit. In other situations where legal guardians don’t vote, children will motivate their guardians to go to the polling station with them, because they want to take part in the junior election. This will help build sustainable structures of active participation in democracy in every age group. With Junior Elections, democracy and voting will be made more accessible and understandable for a significant part of citizens as families will learn alongside their children about the system, options and the impact of voting.

The growing understanding of the democratic system provided with this proposal will enable citizens to learn about politics independently of the education system and eliminate barriers as educational material will be provided in different versions (e.g. simple language for different age groups or other minority languages). Within a long-term perspective, higher election turnouts are to be expected as a result of the implementation of this proposal.

Children are endlessly curious, willing to understand the world around them, and have not yet formed a strong opinion about politics and democracy. They strive to do “adult things” and copy habits of the surrounding adults. So let’s take that chance to let them understand democracy at an early age. As things that captivate us early can often continue to hold a special place in our hearts as we age.