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Democracy is considered one of the most powerful concepts of the modern era. At its heart is the simple principle ‘one-person one-vote’, a crisp sound bite that summarises the ideal that we are all equal, we all have a voice, the right to have that voice heard and the right to have a say in our future. Yet even in democracies, a substantial proportion of the population—about a quarter in the UK—remain silenced and disenfranchised, with no voice. These are the proportion with the longest future ahead of them, with the most to gain, or lose, from poor electoral decisions—children. So how might we redress this inequality?
Others before me have suggested that parents might receive a proxy vote for each child.1–4 However, raise this in discussion and it will usually be rejected, either immediately as a laughable nonsense, or after a pause, with the justification that this would do no more than give multiple votes to parents. Some go on to add offensively that this would empower irresponsible families with many children. Some justify their disapproval by saying parents should not be advantaged over non-parents. Others say they are in favour of lowering the voting age, but not proxy votes, although are then at a loss when asked for justification. Let us examine the logic of these views.
A common theme in these responses is that a proxy vote for each child would in effect be an extra vote for the parent. Extra votes for parents have indeed been proposed as a counter to gerontocracy in ageing populations4 and some have argued that in countries with falling birth rates, extra votes for parents, by signalling political commitment to generous family policies, would increase fertility.5 Over the last century, Germany, France, Japan, Austria and Hungary have discussed giving parents …
Funding The author has not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.
Disclaimer The views expressed in this paper are of the author and not representative of any organisation.
Competing interests NM is the Immediate Past-President of the UK Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and the President-Elect of the UK Medical Women’s Federation. NM is a member of the Nestle International Scientific Advisory Board; she accepts no personal financial remuneration for this role. In the last 5 years, NM has received research grants from the UK Medical Research Council, National Institute for Health Research, March of Dimes, British Heart Foundation, Westminster Medical School Research Trust, HCA International, Chiesi, Nestle, Prolacta Life Sciences, Shire Pharmaceuticals, Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care for Northwest London, Healthcare Quality Improvement Partnership, Bliss, NHS England and UK Department of Health; conference travel and accommodation from Chiesi, Nestle and Prolacta Life Sciences and speaker honoraria from Chiesi.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.
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