Blogs and news about lowering the voting age to 16.
The British Youth Council and Votes at 16 Coalition have joined forces with the FairVote Campaign to support the renewed attempt to introduce a lowering vote age. The latest attempt to introduce voting for 16 and 17 year olds has been spearheaded by Peter Kyle MP who is championing the Representation of the People Bill.
The bill, which has been sponsored by Nicky Morgan MP, Caroline Lucus MP and Norman Lamb MP, is expected to have its second reading debate on Friday 11th May 2018. For the first time since 2010, it is thought the Government may no longer have a majority on the issue with Members of Parliament from across the political spectrum speaking out in support of a lower voting age.
Last week the British Youth Council and Votes at Coalition questioned why thousands of 16 and 17 year olds were denied a vote in the elections that took place in England. In Scotland, 16 and 17 year olds have been allowed to vote in the Scottish Parliamentary elections and Scottish Local Council elections since May 2016. The Welsh Government have also announced their intention to introduce a lower voting age in Welsh local election.
Anna Rose Barker, Chair of the British Youth Council said: “Young people have been speaking out in favour of a lower voting age for 19 years. There are no credible arguments against lowering the age now that we allow 16 and 17 year olds the chance to vote in some elections.
“I hope Members of Parliament will see that 16 and 17 year olds can no longer be denied a vote.”
The British Youth Council and Votes at 16 Coalition are calling on the UK Government to make immediate changes to the legislation preventing 16 and 17 year olds the opportunity to vote in elections. The call comes ahead of the local elections which are taking place in England on Thursday 3rd May 2018.
Thousands of 16 and 17 year olds are being denied a vote in the elections taking place in England. Several elections are being held in England, with elections to all 32 London boroughs, 34 metropolitan boroughs, 68 district and borough councils and 17 unitary authorities. Young people will also miss out on the mayoral elections taking place Hackney, Lewisham, Newham, Tower Hamlets, Watford and the combined authority mayoral elections in the Sheffield City Region.
Young people aged 16 and 17 will be denied a vote despite the fact young people in Scotland have been able to take part in Scottish Parliamentary elections and Scottish Local Council elections since May 2016.
Anna Rose Barker, Chair of the British Youth Council said: “It seems unjust to prevent 16 and 17 year olds the chance to vote in the local elections when their peers in Scotland have had the chance to take part in the Scottish Parliamentary elections and Scottish Local Council elections since May 2016.
“This year we’ve been marking 100 years since the first women were allowed to vote. We call on the Government to lead the way on democratic engagement by lowering the voting age and allowing the first 16 year olds the chance to vote. It is time for the Government to listen to the voices of young people.”
The British Youth Council have been campaigning for a lower voting age for the last 19 years. Support within Parliament has increased in recent years, with Members of Parliament and Peers from across the political spectrum indicating their support both in public and private.
Recent analysis by political commentators suggests the Government may no longer have a majority within the House of Commons. Members of Parliament are due to debate the issue on Friday 11th May 2018 on the green benches of the Commons.
Following recent publicity on the votes at 16 issue MPs have established an All-Party Parliamentary Group to help develop the case for lowering the voting age. The APPG comprises of MPs from across the political spectrum, who will meet to hear evidence from young people, youth organisations and other experts, and use this knowledge to approach the Government for a change in the voting age.
It doesn’t’ seem too long ago that we had the commons debate in Parliament on votes at 16. Unfortunately, Jim McMahon’s Private Member’s Bill wasn’t moved to a vote.
But despite our frustrations on the day, it is clear that a fire has been well and truly lit under the votes at 16 issue. It can’t and won’t be ignored.
The fight is far from won though. There remain many critics of young people’s capacity and aptitude to vote.
So there is more work to be done by MPs and the votes at 16 coalition, and the APPG give us an opportunity to build on the campaign.
The APPG is chaired by Danielle Rowley, who is Labour’s youngest MP and was herself involved in the Youth Parliament. She, therefore, has a real passion for votes at 16 and is honoured to chair the APPG.
Danielle Rowley MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Votes at 16, said: “16 and 17 year olds contribute so much to our society, and are very often politically informed and engaged. So much of their lives are affected by Parliament yet they can’t vote for who represents them. This APPG will bring together supportive voices from across the House to make the compelling case for votes at 16”.
The British Youth Council and Votes at 16 Coalition welcome growing support from within the Conservative Party for the enfranchisement of 16 and 17 year olds. With former front bench Minsters Nicky Morgan MP and Justine Greening MP joining votes at 16 supporter, Sir Peter Bottomley MP, it is clear the tide is turning.
Support for a lower voting age has increased over the last 19 years with politicians from across the political spectrum announcing their support for a lower voting age. 16 and 17 year olds are allowed to vote in the Scottish Parliamentary elections and Scottish Local Council elections and are due to get a vote in the Welsh local elections, making it harder to deny an extension to the franchise in all elections. Yesterday, Rochdale Council joined the growing number of local authorities also declaring their support.
Anna Rose Barker, Chair of the British Youth Council said: “Young people have been calling for a lowering voting age for a long time and it’s about time they were heard. Cross-party support has been growing and is great to see Conservative politicians vocalising their support. The tide is turning.
“With votes at 16 in Scotland, and Wales following close behind, it seems ludicrous for 16 and 17 year olds to be denied a vote in other elections. We must have parity across the UK.”
UK Youth Parliament recently renewed their efforts to drum up support for votes at 16 across the country. Votes at 16 has been a long-standing campaign for Members of Youth Parliament with the issue topping the youth agenda on four occasions since 2011 in the Make Your Mark ballot.
Alaa Fawaz, aged 16, Member of Youth Parliament for Slough who has recently spoken to the Prime Minister about votes at 16 said: “I think it is sad that the Government is resisting a lower voting age. I hope we are able to change the minds of those in Government so 16 and 17 year olds can have their say in a meaningful way.
“Young people are more engaged than ever before and it’s imperative that 16 and 17 year olds are entrusted with the vote now!”
New figures suggest the Government may not have a majority on the issue in the Commons, reaping new hope for Peter Kyle MP’s Private Members Bill which is due to be debated in the chamber in May.
Today’s debate in the House of Commons on Votes at 16 was a disappointment for young people across the UK.
The debate was preceded by a fantastic bill from Steve Reed MP on the use of restraint in mental health facilities. It was fantastic to hear such a great discussion on mental health, and particularly the use of restraint on young people and people from black, Asian and minority ethnic communities. There was great support across the house for improving mental health provision, support and prevention, so much so that one MP described it as ‘violent agreement’!
But what was disappointing that this great sense of agreement did not lead to an earlier vote, giving time for votes at 16 to be properly debated. After around an hour and half parliament ran out of time and the debate ended without a vote. Whilst the vocal support for mental health is welcomed we are disappointed that yet again the opportunity to extend the franchise to 16 and 17 year olds has been kicked into the long grass yet again.
So many young people have been campaigning on this issue for many years. And it is testament to the work of Members of Youth Parliament and British Youth Council member organisations like NUS that so many MPs committed to turn up and support the bill today.
But this does not mean that the fight for votes at 16 is over. The bill may yet get its day in Parliament, and has been rescheduled for 1 December 2017. And this Private Members Bill has really put the spotlight back onto the issue, raising awareness of the importance of young people having a voice, and the necessity of citizenship education to develop an informed and engaged electorate.
The Votes at 16 Coalition, facilitated by the British Youth Council, will continue to argue the case for votes at 16. Support is growing, with more council passing motions in support. Just this week Belfast has become the latest city to pass a motion in support of votes at 16. And we look to Wales where they have been consulting on whether to lower the voting age to 16 for elections to the Assembly.
Valuing youth voice is crucial to increasing the engagement of young people in society and democracy. Extending the right to vote to 16 and 17 year olds, combined with a curriculum for life that builds young people’s knowledge and understanding of the political process, is an essential step on the road to ensuring that decision makers to talk to young people, not about them.
At sixteen, individuals can get married, pay their taxes and sign up to risk their lives in our armed forces, but they cannot exercise their basic democrat right to vote. Isn’t it time that we follow in Scotland’s footsteps and introduce a lowered voting age of sixteen? I and the Lib Dems think yes and we are determined to fight for this in this Parliament.
The 2017 General election saw the largest youth vote in 25 years, finally discrediting the narrative that young adults are either too lazy or immature to vote. We can, however, do better. By extending the franchise to those 16 and 17 year olds we can expand our national conversation to some of the most disenchanted and side-lined individuals in our nation. The 2014 Scottish referendum for example brought thousands of young scots into the fold, now we are experiencing some of the highest youth turn outs in Scotland for generations. The ability to inspire at a young age has resulted in greater engagement at elections since. We currently have over one and a half million sixteen-seventeen year olds in the UK, to be able to inspire even half of these individuals to continue voting would result in a significantly higher turnout than many of our past elections. Such a generational shift could even change the age-old story of pensions before education which has shaped the political world for many years.
On the topic of education, many critics of this idea have suggested that teachers and schools will be able to exercise influence over individuals. As a former teacher myself, I can say that all my colleagues entered the profession to educate not control. I prided myself on being fair and unbiased individual, there to facilitate open debate. My job was to equip them to make their own decisions. Any suggestion otherwise is a slight on the whole profession.
To those who suggest that sixteen-seventeen year olds are just not ready for the vote, who think they are just not matured enough for this responsibility, I suggest they look no further than our Youth Parliament. It is here, a place with children as young as eleven, that you will find some of the most passionate and inspiring individuals. It certainly puts some of my own colleagues to shame. This is by no means an isolated occurrence, young adults across the country are increasingly aware and involved in politics. It is these young adults that will one day contribute to our pensions, staff our hospitals and pay the taxes which our government needs. Therefore, it is necessary that we act in their best interests to secure our countries future.
Our young adults are ready to take the reins, to have a say in a future which will be dominated not by us but by them. Therefore, I fully support the lowering of the voting age to sixteen. Let’s change the old proverb of out of touch youths and create a new generation of political aware and enthused young adults. Let’s get inclusive and work towards a better future for all generations.
We’ve been talking about possibly lowering the voting age for a long time without much change, and I think this Bill (Representation of the People (Young People’s Enfranchisement and Education) Bill 2017-19) is the perfect opportunity for our democracy to make a great stride forward. As we know, you currently have to be 18 or older to vote in all elections in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, but notably not Scotland. When I was in Scotland campaigning before the Independence referendum in 2014, I was blown away by the enthusiasm of the young people who had finally been given an opportunity to really get involved as 16- and 17- year olds were allowed to vote. In fact, 89% of all 16 and 17 year olds registered to vote – clearly defying the far-too-common expectation that they wouldn’t be interested in engaging anyway.
I often hear that individuals under the age of 18 lack the maturity to vote but I strongly disagree, and furthermore, if we consider 16 year olds suitable for tax-paying, putting their lives on the line in the armed forces, marrying and working full-time, then how can we not see them as adult enough to elect those who make the decisions which affect all of those important aspects of their day-to-day lives?
Our most recent general election only solidified this view that I’ve had for a long time, as turnout for 18-24 year olds increased by 16%. There’s a clear appetite in young people to be involved in the democratic process and I think it’s about time we allowed it to improve our democracy. Over 1.5 million 16- and 17-year-olds in the UK are not represented by a vote, about 2.3% of the total population. Instead of denying them access to democratic involvement and alienating them from the process, we should be seeking to engage and empower these young citizens to gain interest in the political system. With 16 and 17 year olds required to be in education, employment and training making this change in the law would give us a golden opportunity to not only enfranchise young people but to equip them with the knowledge and skills to exercise this new right thoughtfully. We have the opportunity to create a foundation for further democratic impact later on in life, if now we allow these young people to vote.
On your 16th birthday you are legally deemed ‘mature enough’ to be able to undertake a multitude of responsibilities; these include joining the armed forces, paying taxes, changing your name, having sex or even getting married. This list goes on.
Importantly, young people don’t just care about youth issues. There is a perception that young people will naively vote for politicians that promise more youth clubs, lower drinking ages and similar themes. This is not the case. Yes young people care about the things that affect them, as do any age group, but they also see the bigger picture locally, nationally and internationally. They cite the refugee crisis, technological advancements and how to live in a global economy. Young people overwhelmingly have an optimistic outlook on the future, and thank goodness as by 2020 50% of the workforce will be millennials, pushing for a brighter and more prosperous world.
My next thought; if you don’t think young people are equipped enough to make this decision, instead of segregating them, try asking them what support and education they need. Votes at 16 is not a campaign that assumes giving 16 and 17 year olds the right to vote is the silver bullet to engagement across young people in politics. But, it could well be the start. Ask us what we want and need to know about our democracy and political structures, so we can educate each other and engage all member of society from an early age. The impact of this could be phenomenal.
So much of this focuses on whether young people are mature enough, informed enough or if they’ve had enough ‘life experience’ to form an opinion. When was the last time adults questioned their ability to form a rational opinion? The debate always leads to questioning young people and outing them under a moral microscope, yet we never ask the same question to older citizens. What is society doing to ensure everyone is receiving a fair and unbiased education on politics, democracy and voting?
If you are still unsure as to why young people’s voices matter I beg that you go and ask a young person what they think. Not just about school, youth clubs and youth issues; but about the economy, globalisation, jobs. And not just 16 and 17 year olds, ask a 12-year-old, even a 9 year old what they think. Ask them why they think this and how they formed this opinion, why they care and what experiences they have had so far. I guarantee that you will be shocked and pleasantly surprised at the thoughtfulness, the inquisitiveness, boldness and perhaps the shyness in their views.
What we need is a country that wholeheartedly supports and listens to young people, and Votes at 16 is a sharp step in the right direction to make this a reality.
UpRising is a UK-wide youth leadership development charity. Our mission is to open up pathways to and employment for a diverse pool of young adults from under-represented backgrounds who have talent, but lack opportunity.
In 2017, Demos published a report stating that only 37% of young adults in the UK feel that British politics reflects the issues that matter to them, and that there is mistrust in the political system. Our own research reflects these findings. Young people, particularly those from diverse, underrepresented backgrounds, often feel disengaged from power structures and disempowered when it comes to having their needs heard or addressed.
“I was stuck…I wanted an opportunity to build my confidence. Beforehand, I thought ‘you can’t do much’ but I’ve realised how the little things [in my community] really matter” UpRiser, Manchester Programme 2016-17
When it comes to politics, young people are incredibly passionate about making a change in the world around them, and care deeply about what happens in their local communities. However, they may not consider politics to be relevant to their lives and do not see the value in learning about it. There are barriers of access and relatability, and UpRising aims to address these by providing young people with the confidence, skills, networks and knowledge to help them to become more democratically engaged and have their voices heard on issues that affecting them, their peers and communities.
One example of how UpRising has been tackling this important issue is our My Voice My Vote project, which successfully registered 8000 first time voters in two months before the 2015 General Elections. Before the project, only 21% of participants had registered to vote. Through knowledge workshops, designing and delivering social community campaigns, and visiting media and political organisations for expert training on democratic campaigns, this statistic rose to 40%.
We also know that once young people have voted a first time, they are more likely to vote in the future. With 2017 seeing the largest youth voting turnout in 25 years, Votes at 16 will help catalyse this fantastic progress in getting younger generations engaged, vocal and voting for what they believe in. We hope that Votes at 16 will be part of a wider societal power shift; 50% of Cabinet politicians were privately educated, and our MPs comprise of only 29% women, and 6% black and minority ethnic (BAME) groups.
Ultimately, we need more diverse representation, and Votes at 16 is integral in changing the face of politics in Britain today and in the future. Our experience shows that the best way for young people to learn about politics is to get involved, and removing the age barrier is one fundamental way to achieve this goal. Votes at 16 will empower 16 and 17 year olds, increase their self-awareness and knowledge of the political system, and build confidence to identify which issues are most important to them and have a voice in changing these.
One of the most effective pillars of our successful 2017 General Election campaign in Ipswich was our targeted and school-specific information on the real-terms cuts to school income proposed in the Tories’ so-called “Fair Funding” proposals. But while I gained a great deal from standing with Labour campaigners outside many of the Primary Schools in Ipswich and meeting the parents who were angry about the attacks on their children’s education, the most enjoyable day of the whole campaign didn’t involve parents at all.
Angela Rayner visited Ipswich and together we witnessed democracy in action. Sidegate Primary School organised a school election. The three classes in the 5th year acted as political parties, selected leaders, wrote manifestos, made party political broadcasts which were shown to the other children, and we were invited to their hustings at which the rival candidates for “School Prime Minister” spoke to the other children and took questions on their platforms. And the platforms were real platforms – the school fund has made money available so that the new “School Prime Minister” can fulfil the practical and fully-costed pledges she made in her campaign – so very different from the real Prime Minister! Despite feeling extremely tired by that time, I was thrilled to be given a personal guided tour of the school fete by the newly elected Prime Minister on the Saturday morning after my own election as MP for Ipswich.
This level of engagement is unusual for primary schools, but it is becoming more usual in secondary schools, and quite rightly so. More and more secondary schools are holding elections for school councils and genuinely empowering their school council members to have a real effect. Learning about democracy is crucial for all of our children and young people, but actually participating in it themselves is, I believe, a far more effective way of embedding the concepts of democratic decision-taking and of voting for representatives and holding them to account.
But how much more seriously teenagers would take such democratic engagement if they were themselves about to vote in real elections for their local Borough Council or Member of Parliament. It is often said that the electorate were more informed about the issues in 1945 than ever before, because prior to demobilisation so many servicemen and women took part in discussion groups and classes in history and politics. Above all, they were able to discuss the issues amongst themselves, and were not dependent on opinions fed to them through the mainstream media.
The same dynamic applies in schools. We know that if young people vote at their first possible election they are likely to carry on voting. We also know that a majority of under-25s still do not vote at all. If most young people cast their first vote while still at school, the level of engagement and support they would have during the election period, and the extent to which they could discuss the issues and make a decision based on something other than the Sun Editorial or on the views of their parents, would be massively enhanced. And the likelihood is that, having voted for the first time in a situation where their classmates are also voting and will encourage them with a level of group expectation, they will then continue to vote once they are out in the world on their own.
I believe by introducing votes at 16 we could reverse the trend for lower and lower turnout levels, and come to expect the proportion of teenagers and twenty-somethings who regularly vote to be as high – or higher – than their parents. But even more importantly, I believe that enabling the first vote that people make to be within the context of education, we will start to finally break away from the superficial tribalism that has characterised twentieth-century democracy, and forge a new democratic relationship with the voters which is based on them actually thinking about the issues before voting.