Austrians went to the polls for parliamentary elections Sunday, and for the first time, 16- and 17-year-olds got to vote. Austria is the first European Union country to lower the voting age to 16 for national elections. Brazil, Cuba, and Nicaragua also permit 16-year-olds to vote, and neighboring Germany allows 16-year-olds to vote in certain local elections.
What led to the change? One word: demographics. With Austrians having fewer babies, the electorate was skewed toward seniors. Granting more youth the vote was seen as a way of maintaining balance between generations.
Did the youth vote play a role? Maybe. Heinz-Christian (HC) Strache, the 39-year-old head of the far-right Freedom Party, received one fourth of the under-30 vote. His Web site, showing "StraCHE" in a Che Guevara-style beret, features a downloadable "Viva HC" rap song ring tone.
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