A pure democracy gives equal voting rights for voters in the society regardless of their demographics (age, gender, or ethnicity).

However, in many referendums, younger voters have a different say from older people, and the there may be a true differential impact of the referendum result on people from different generations (e.g., Brexit).

For example, a result of 'Yes' in a referendum could be overall beneficial for older, more conservative people while being in the same time harmful for more ambitious younger generations who have longer life expectancy.

In a democratic political system, can votes be weighted by life expectancy based on voters' age? Or would this be considered age discrimination?

  • 5
    Voting to close for ageism, subjectivity, and the dubious concept that the Brexit would hurt the young
    – user9790
    Jun 1, 2018 at 22:36
  • 9
    This doesn't justify closing the question. You could rather put your argument in an answer.
    – Orion
    Jun 1, 2018 at 22:48
  • 3
    @Orion The subjectivity part does. Asking whether this would be a good idea is a question about opinion, and is outside the scope of the SE.
    – Publius
    Jun 2, 2018 at 0:44
  • 2
    The "(and should)" makes it opinion-based.
    – Golden Cuy
    Jun 2, 2018 at 3:36
  • 1
    Juggling the election system for a different answer looks like gerrymandering and other deceptive practices. If you don't like the outcome of an election, you might start by examining the reasons the election went the way it did, and then adjusting your campaign for a broader appeal. It's called democracy, and it works... when people look for answers, not excuses.
    – tj1000
    Jun 3, 2018 at 15:43

2 Answers 2


This would definitely be considered age discrimination. It shifts the balance of power towards the young. And because the young vote less often, it would shift towards a smaller portion of the overall population.

You identify the one significant pro. It would shift the power towards those who might be affected the longest time.

The accompanying con though is that there is already a way for the young to address that. They will only be young and outvoted by the old for a limited time. Eventually the old will die or at least become sick enough to no longer vote. So the young can then win those votes and change the law. Until they do so, then the young and old should share that responsibility. The old have just as much right to control the next year of their life as the young do. Once the old are no longer there, the now older but previously young can step forward and join with the even younger for a new result.

There is also the problem of the young having less life experience. I.e. many people look back on decisions they made when young and think about how they wouldn't do that again. This gives more power to the people with the least ability to aim it.

Under this logic, shouldn't the unborn get the greatest influence? They will be impacted more than anyone living, as they have a longer life expectancy. And there are so many of them. You can go forward an arbitrary period of time so as to have more unborn people than living people.

  • 3
    Re "the young vote less often": in the current system yes, but it might be that under a hypothetical life-expectancy weighted system the aged would vote less frequently per capita than the young.
    – agc
    Jun 2, 2018 at 2:32
  • 3
    Re "less life experience": of course such added experience might be offset by fading mental powers and various corrupting obligations -- older voters might be more conservative not because they believe in conservatism, but because they can't adapt to change, (e.g. suppose an old voter with valuable tobacco stock votes for some tobacco-sponsored racist because he's afraid he can't pick a more lucrative investment, even thought that voter disapproves of cancer and racism).
    – agc
    Jun 2, 2018 at 2:41
  • Perhaps rather than weighting the votes, the system could be changed so that decisions are less permanent. Taking Brexit as an example, by the time it happens enough old people will have died to reverse the result, but actually re-joining the EU is then going to be extremely difficult even if it's what people want.
    – user
    Jun 4, 2018 at 10:35
  • Not sure that old people have more life experience than young people. At least, societies evolve and part of that life experience is useless in the modern society. Many elders have difficulties with globalization and/or new technologies. Life experience or political wisdom is not an increasing function of age.
    – Taladris
    Aug 6, 2018 at 7:47
  • The last paragraph is pure slippery slope fallacy.
    – Taladris
    Aug 6, 2018 at 7:47

Voting weighted by life expectancy is age-discrimination, but so is the current system of limiting voting to those over a certain age. A reverse system could also be tried, where votes are weighted by total years lived, so that elders had more voting points. It might also be argued, if we liken urbanization to youth, that the US apportionment of electoral votes by state, where a Wyoming voter has three times the voting power of a New York voter, is a bit like the reverse system.

Life expectancy vote weighting effects might occur wherever the young disagree with the old:

  • Unpopular wars with drafts.

  • Student aid, loan, and grant policies. Public schools.

  • Taxation in general, property tax in particular.

  • Contraband laws.

  • Codification of topical social mores.

  • Age of candidates.

It seems unprofitable to speculate as to which of those might be pros and cons.

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