As international ambassadors, we have seen incredible progress in countries around the world in giving young people the right to vote. Even within the UK, in Wales and Scotland, young people aged 16 and above have been granted voting rights in local elections and referendums, enabling them to influence key decisions that affect their lives and futures.
As international ambassadors, most of us started our campaigning journeys before the age of 16. As young people, we have an acute awareness of how we’re impacted by politics- in our schools, parks, youth clubs, school meals, safety and our climate. As young people, our lived experiences are vital to checking the political temperature and recognising where there is a need for change.
We do not turn 18 and suddenly become aware of the world we live in. We live our youth without a political voice and are expected to speak loudly at the voting booth once we are permitted. The 2019 General Election saw a turnout of around 47% amongst voters aged 18-24, a poor turnout considering that there was a 74% turnout among voters aged 65 and over. At the end of the day, how can we expect young people to be engaged in electoral politics when they have been left voiceless for so long?
Conversely, in the 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum where 16 and 17 year olds were allowed to vote, they had a 75% registration rate. These results don’t just show that young people are keen to engage in politics; but are also committed to having their say. Ultimately, young people are desperate to be counted in their future, to make vital decisions on their education, their communities, their climate.
As a result, we deeply believe that by giving Votes at 16, we bring equality between 16 and 17 year olds across the UK, removing the postcode lottery of whether they have a say in politics.
As the next generation, we deserve to have a say on our future and shape the direction of the world we will ultimately inherit.