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Votes for a better future
  1. Neena Modi
  1. Correspondence to Professor Neena Modi, Section of Neonatal Medicine, Imperial College London, Chelsea and Westminster Hospital campus, London SW10 9NH, UK; n.modi{at}

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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 …

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