It's time we took democracy seriously
The idea of guardianship as a way of enfranchising young children is new to me and intriguing. I think the argument that families with children currently have less voting power because of the disenfranchisement of children is emotionally striking. I think the most accurate way of interpreting this statement is that as a group of individuals, a family does not have as much voting power, because not all of the individuals have the power to vote.
I read the existing comments thread, and I think Daniel's point that parents voting for children can turn into head-of-household voting for children is valid. One idea I have is that perhaps if one person's occupation is "homemaker" (like in the census), that person is defaultly the one who is to vote on behalf of their children. Of course, people can have other occupations and still be much more involved in caring for their children than their partners are, but this does partially (or rather, in some cases) help to prevent the "head-of-household" taking control of the children's vote just because they're the "breadwinner."
I am also thinking of how the enfranchisement of children is related to the enfranchisement of Disabled people, especially due to the popular concern that children are too "incompetent" to vote. I think more attention needs to be given to how we can collectively make voting accessible to all people, whether it is by sharing information about issues and candidates in accessible language, providing various options for how a person can vote (different ways of voting in-person as well as remotely), and creating a culture that fundamentally assumes that everyone's vote and generally civic engagement matters and is meaningful.
I mean, one of my parents once voted for somebody simply because their first name was my name at that time. Currently enfranchised people make arbitrary voting decisions all the time. If a child expresses the desire to vote and then is allowed to vote, their vote is no more arbitrary than my parent's vote, but it could well be justified with excellent moral reasoning (and I don't mean moral reasoning of any particular complexity, as complex moral reasoning can sometimes be quite bad moral reasoning; it could just be, as many children certainly already reason, "That person does not care about climate change or the planet in general. I think that's important, so I won't vote for that person."). If accessible information about issues and candidates, from various different sources (that is, not just from the government or even from schools and other institutions run by adults for children) were made widely available, then children -- and anyone else who benefits from information presented in simpler or more direct language -- would have more of a chance to *become* informed (aka "competent") voters.
I think there is some promise in idea of guardians voting on behalf of young children who don't yet express a desire to vote themselves, due to the fact that those children still have political stakes that their caregivers would best (or at least most appropriately) discern, but I need to think over it more, and I suspect it might need more refinement to iron out some of the potential issues that may come up. One problem I see is setting an age for when the guardian-vote process ends: you propose 12 years of age, but some children may be eager to vote far earlier than that, and some children (and even adults) may be reluctant to vote long after that age. There's some arbitrariness in the choice of age here, based upon assumptions of "normal" childhood development, which is parallel to the arbitrariness in choosing age 18 as the age of majority. Just providing general access to voting for anyone who actively wants to vote eliminates the need to set an arbitrary age requirement/limit for anything, so currently I think that is superior to trying to set up a temporary provision for guardian voting.
I don’t think it could ever work to allow guardians to vote for their babies, because of shared guardianship, and the inevitability of disagreement between guardians about how the child should vote. And because of other complications in the realm of guardianship which I am ignorant of, but which I’m certain exist. What do you do with wards of the state? What about when guardianship itself is contested? Institutions meant to intervene on guardian relationships (in the name of the welfare of the child, purportedly) would become even more vulnerable to political instrumentalization and manipulation. Basically, I don’t see a way to tether votes together without exacerbating the problem you’re trying to solve. Every person who votes must vote by and for their own selves, independently.
I had an idea yesterday, that babies even under the age of 1 could be made to vote the same way they allow animals to choose the winners of various sports contests. It would be arbitrary, in other words. Candidates could each be represented by different objects, and babies could be given the opportunity to choose between these objects in a baby-specific voting booth, observed by no less than two independent vote counters. The thing which would qualify a person to vote would be the ability to *functionally* choose between options, not to “capably” choose between options.
When I described this idea to Daniel, I emphasized that it would “introduce randomness into the system,” which I felt could be a good thing, for reasons I couldn’t articulate, because I was, at the time, stoned on a cross country flight. Daniel called my idea “too stupid to talk about,” and “so stupid, Kathryn, I can’t get over it,” which clearly testifies to the power of the idea. He also called it “literally undemocratic,” which, upon sober reflection, is true, but I feel this fault might be more than compensated for by the symbolic power of the ritual.