25,723 first-time voters

This will be the second European Parliament election in which people as young as 16 can vote in Malta.

The total number of first-time voters for the upcoming European Parliament election – individuals who are eligible now but who were not eligible to participate in the same election in 2019 – is 25,723, according to the Electoral Commission of Malta.

The term “first-time voter” is used to refer mainly to young people who, having reached voting age, are facing their first opportunity to vote. However, it could also include other individuals who were not allowed to vote in previous elections – for instance because of lack of citizenship, lack of registration in the case of non-Maltese European citizens living in Malta, and conviction – and are now allowed to vote. However, the figure provided by the Electoral Commission mainly comprises individuals who have never voted at elections for Members of the European Parliament and local council elections before.

This will be the second European Parliament election in which people as young as 16 can vote in Malta after the national voting age was decreased to 16 in all elections in March 2018. Six years ago, Parliament unanimously approved the Vote 16 Act, amending the Constitution for the voting age to be lowered from 18 to 16. Malta became the second EU country to introduce the change following Austria, that had become the first member state to adopt a voting age of 16 for most purposes in 2007.

In this year’s European elections, four Member States (Austria, Belgium, Germany, and Malta) will allow their citizens to vote from the age of 16, while in Greece the voting age is 17. After declining ever since the first European Parliament elections were held in 1979, electoral turnout in the 2019 elections reached an unprecedented 50.6% (up 8% compared with 2014) across the EU. A Eurobarometer survey showed that this increase was largely the result of greater youth participation, demonstrating European young people’s desire for active political participation. Hopeful of seeing another encouraging youth participation, the EU has through its Publications Office created an attractive online publication tageting first-time voters.

According to the Electoral Commission of Malta, 72.7% of the total voting population participated in the 2019 European Parliament and local council elections. However, the youth turnout was not accounted for by age. As election day approaches, all political parties and candidates in Malta are leaving no stone unturned to reach out to the younger voters which, political observers are noting, have by and large been rather disengaged from the electoral campaign.

Beyond lowering the voting age, the EU countries explore several tools to boost youth participation in elections. These include youth quotas in political parties, online or postal voting options, lowering the candidacy age, and embedding civic education in school curricula.

To get young people and first-time voters engaged, the Parliamentary Secretariat for Youth and Research & Innovation is joining forces with Aġenzija Żgħażagħ for a brand new campaign launching soon. Funded by Erasmus+, the campaign will utilise social media, television, and bus shelter advertising to reach its audience. Over the past months, Aġenzija Żgħażagħ has also worked in secondary schools and post-secondary institutions and organised various workshops to encourage youth voting.

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