Taipei-A proposed constitution amendment to lower the voting age in the Republic of China (the official name of Taiwan), from 20 to 18 requires the backing of nearly 9.62 million voters to pass in a national referendum to be held on Saturday, the Central Election Commission (CEC) said Tuesday.
The referendum, which asks voters if they agree to amend the Additional Articles of the Constitution of the Republic of China to grant Taiwanese citizens who are 18 years of age and above the right to vote, will be held concurrently with local government elections on Nov. 26.
The CEC said in a press statement the referendum will pass only if a minimum of 9,619,697 people vote in favor of lowering the voting age, since a total of 19,239,392 people aged 20 and above are eligible to cast their vote in the Nov. 26 plebiscite.
The agency estimated that there will be approximately 760,000 first-time voters.
To amend the Republic of China Constitution, legislators must first pass a proposed amendment with at least three-quarters of all lawmakers present and a minimum of three-quarters of those present supporting the measure. The amendment must then be endorsed in a national referendum.
The 113-seat Legislative Yuan voted 109-0 in favor of the revision on March 25, sending the issue to a national referendum that requires the support of at least half of all eligible voters to come into effect.
A plebiscite on a proposed constitutional amendment is different from normal referendums seeking to change a government policy or a law in some ways.
The CEC has said referendums on constitutional amendments are not subject to the Referendum Act, which allows citizens who are 18 years old and above to vote while prohibiting referendums being held on the same day as national elections.
The agency also cited the Constitution of the Republic of China as saying that only citizens who are 20 years of age and above are eligible to vote in referendums on constitutional amendments.
In addition, the threshold for referendums on constitutional amendments requires the approval of 50 percent of eligible voters, which is double the 25 percent approval required in normal referendums.
At a press conference held by the Association of Parent Participating Education in Taiwan on Tuesday, student Chen Pin-ying (陳品穎) said starting 2023, the age of majority in both the Civil Code and the Criminal Code will be 18.
If young people face such obligations as paying taxes or serving compulsory military service at the age of 18, they should be given the right to vote, added Chen, who is currently a second-year student at the Affiliated Senior High School of National Taiwan Normal University.
Lee Wan-yi (李宛怡), who was a general practitioner before becoming a stay-at-home mother of three, said some people opposed the lowering of the voting age in Taiwan based on the belief that high school students are easily swayed and incapable of making an informed decision.
However, Lee argued that this problem is not exclusive to young people and can be attributed to failure of civics education in Taiwan.
She added that putting more effort into cultivating independent thinking among students is the solution to this problem rather than preventing them from taking part in political affairs at an earlier age.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel