The Moorish Wanderer

Lower The Age Vote to 16 – Why It Could Bolster Turnout over the Long Run

Posted in Intikhabates-Elections, Moroccan History & Sociology, Morocco, Read & Heard by Zouhair ABH on March 8, 2012

Vote at 16. Why not?

I guess the first counter-argument goes on how critical these new electors can be on the overall turnout. What if in spite of this new enfranchised population, turnout was still low? Well, we can always run the numbers and prove that an election does not need to carry more than 51% of total votes to be popular. I posted on it a couple of months ago, but we can go over it once more: the present system both restricts and allows for an absolute majority with fewer votes.

Computations assume full turnout, full registration of all Moroccan adults per HCP estimates.

The total number of adult Moroccans for 2012 is about 22 Million individuals;  assuming all of them are registered, it can be easily proved a political organization (a coalition or a single party) can carry 198 seats with less than 11 Million votes. Indeed, there are about 55,700 votes per seat, and 22.7% of these seats are just a projection of local ballots. But then again, one has to take into account the 6% threshold to qualify for a public refund; that leaves the total actual vote to 52,300:1. Furthermore, since 41% of slots opened on all 92 districts carry 3 seats, hence carrying an average 3.3 seats per district, the total number of seats actually needed to carry 2 seats out of 3 opened on 92 districts in absolute majority is 55%, with the final result of 28,700 votes, thus bring the theoretical number of votes required to carry an absolute majority to 4.4 Million votes. And that assumes a 100% turn-out and no rejected or blank ballots. In the final analysis, it doesn’t take 11 Million votes to get an absolute majority at the House of Representatives-and thus control parliament, not even half of it; overall, 20% of all Moroccan adults can do it, democratically and in spite of all the gerrymandering one might think of.The figure of course, decreases commensurately quicker as the turnout declines, since the actual electorate is computed on the basis of voter turnout, i.e. on an already smaller slate of decisive voters – it is worth pointing out that many adults cannot vote by law or by deprivation of right: military, auxiliary police force members, current and prison inmates and so on.

In fact, the computations hold even as the current district boundaries allow for significant discrepancies between allocated seats and its demographic size: Tan-Tan has a population of 70,000 including 40,000 adults and gets 2 seats. Mohammedia has 3 seats even though is has a population of 321,000 including 200,000 adults. Mohammedia has one additional seat even though its adult population is five time that of Tan-Tan. Obviously,  a candidate in the former needs only 18,000 votes to gain a slot, 37,000 to carry both. A Mohammedia candidate needs to carry 62,000 for one seat, and 188,000 for their ballot list to carry the whole district. Volatility around the nationwide 28,700 mean does not, however, preclude, at least on paper, the possibility of one party, or a smaller pre-electoral coalition, to carry an absolute majority at Parliament House.

If 20% of all Moroccan adults alone, under the assumption of full turnout, can provide enough votes for a strong majority, there is little to fear from expanding the size of this electorate. In fact, it brings 1.8 Million additional voters, and as it may please sceptics, their relative weight will tend to decrease, from 7.56% of the new total electorate in 2012, to 6.7% of the potential 2016 electorate, an annual average demographic decline of  0.9%. It is quite obvious that their immediate impact in terms of a first-time ‘protest vote’ is quite harmless, since their weight is dangerously close to the 6% threshold. Unless they can mobilize more enthusiastically and make up for a low turnout from other demographic populations. And the whole idea gambled upon is to boost turnout over the years young 16 years-old go to polling stations. Studies show the younger generation is keener to get involved in civic activities, and lower the mandatory age for voting rights can influence this civic enthusiasm to political activism.

Are political parties interested in disenfranchising electors? It seems not. As a matter of fact, they would fight it with all the energy their special interests can summon; most parties do not have active youth organizations, and those who do are often at loggerheads with youthful rivals to an otherwise political gerontocracy. Yet it would serve a lot the political mainstream to mobilize young people very early on; they can build on some strong support that can carry them across elections, a readily available stock of grass-roots activists, and perhaps more ambitiously, to hand-pick early on potential leaders – that is when our political leaders finally come to the conclusion they are not immortals, and their heirs need not be systematically with biological ties.

While 16 years-old can be allowed to vote, can they also stand as candidates? Well, if the case for the voting right gets its point across to the public opinion, I suppose there is little to prevent it as well. After all, the books of law do not explain why the age of 18 was arbitrarily selected, do they?