Blogs and news about lowering the voting age to 16.
The British Youth Council have expressed their dissatisfaction with the Government’s continued opposition to a lower voting age. The unplanned EU Elections which take place on Thursday 23rd May will see 1.5 million young people aged 16 and 17 denied the opportunity to vote.
Over the past 16 years, the youth-led charity has been campaigning for the enfranchisement of 16 and 17 year olds. Research compiled by the Votes at 16 Coalition indicates unanimous cross-party support in the Scottish Parliament where they have introduced votes at 16 in Scottish Parliamentary elections and Local Council elections, increasing support across the green benches at Westminster and significant support in the Wales where the Welsh Assembly are due to introduce a lower voting age in 2021.
‘Unequal access to democracy’
16 and 17 year olds in Scotland had the chance to vote in the Scottish Referendum, continue to vote in the Scottish Parliamentary elections and Scottish Local Council elections and we are due to lower the voting age in the Welsh local elections in the near future. This continues to create unequal access to democracy across the UK.
Amanda Chetwynd-Cowieson, Chair of the British Youth Council said: “It is simply unbelievable that we continue to deny 16 and 17 year olds the opportunity to vote in some elections. How can the Government justify this unequal situation?”
Earlier this year the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Votes at 16 released a campaign report.
On the 50th anniversary of the Representation of the People Act receiving Royal Assent, The British Youth Council, UK Youth Parliament and Votes at 16 Coalition call on the Government to lower the voting age to 16 in all elections and referenda taking place in the UK.
The renewed calls comes following repeated attempts to extend the franchise by Members of Parliament. In a recent report published earlier this month, a cross-party group of parliamentarians made the compelling case for ‘votes at 16’.
The British Youth Council believe that 16 and 17 year olds should be given the vote in all public elections in the UK. The youth-led charity, which has been campaigning on votes at 16 since 2003, believe that at 16 we are mature enough to engage in, and contribute to, our democracy through having the vote.
Amanda Chetwynd-Cowieson, Chair of the British Youth Council said: “It makes no sense that some 16 and 17 year olds are prevented from voting in elections and referenda. The Government must concede and implement a lowering voting age in all elections!”
Support for a lower voting age has increased over the last 20 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. Votes at 16 has also been a long-standing campaign for Members of Youth Parliament with the issue topping the youth agenda on five occasions since 2011 in the Make Your Mark ballot.
UK Youth Parliament has chosen to focus on lowering the voting age to 16 and knife crime in 2019. The decision came following the UK Youth Parliament’s tenth House of Commons debate which was chaired by the Speaker, Rt Hon John Bercow MP. Knife crime was declared a top concern in the UK Youth Parliament’s Make Your Mark ballot of over 1.1 million young people.
Votes at 16 continues to be an important issue for young people and has been voted as a campaign priority for the third year in a row. Alex McDermott, Member of Youth Parliament for Derbyshire who spoke on the issue of lowering the voting age said “Votes at 16 continues to be high on the agenda for young people.
“Young people have spoken out on this issue for long enough. It’s time for the Government to listen to young people and lower the voting age to 16”
Imogen White, Member of Youth Parliament for Member of Youth Parliament for Essex, who spoke on a knife which was chosen as the priority campaign for England, said: “Knife crime is the largest concern of young people across the UK. Young people shouldn’t have to fear for their lives or feel they have to turn to violent weapons just to feel safe in their communities.
“The knife crime epidemic is crippling our nation and the Government must do everything in their power to protect young people.”
Members of Parliament from across the House of Commons responded to the news.
Norman Lamb MP, Member of Parliament for North Norfolk said: “Soaring knife crime is destroying the safety and fabric of our communities, with teenagers and young people most at risk.
“The number of fatal stabbings rose by 16% in England and Wales between 2015 and 2017, while new NHS figures show that 13 people on average were admitted to hospital every day following a knife attack last year.
“The Government must do more to tackle this crisis, but extra policing alone is not the answer. We need a public health approach that tackles the root causes of violent crime, including investment in community services designed to prevent youth violence and support those who are at risk of offending. This is a major concern for young people across the country and I welcome that the UK Youth Parliament is treating it as a priority.”
Vicky Foxcroft MP, Member of Parliament for Lewisham, who attended the House of Commons Sitting said: “I was pleased to hear that the UK Youth Parliament were discussing knife crime in Parliament.
“In September I was fortunate enough to meet London members of the Youth Parliament in Westminster to discuss the work we’ve been doing on the Youth Violence Commission.
“Their knowledge and passion on how we tackle knife crime was so clear. They recognised the importance of early intervention and prevention and showed a real understanding of how the public health model works and what it can deliver.
“Their views on how knife crime affects them and their communities should rightly be heard by all politicians.”
Ross Thomson MP, Member of Parliament for Aberdeen South, said:
“It is striking that knife crime has emerged as the top issue identified by young people in this survey.
“In my constituency of Aberdeen South, a teenager was killed at school in an incident involving a knife three years ago.
“It is up to MPs from all parties to do what they can to reduce the risk of future incidents.
“That means educating young people about the dangers of knives and changing the law where appropriate. For example, I have been supportive of moves to tighten up legislation around the sale of weapons online.
“This is an issue where MPs from across the house should be working together to address this growing problem affecting our young people.”
Members of Youth Parliament are set to formally launch the campaigns during their day of action in January 2019. UK Youth Parliament will now begin to develop campaign actions for the campaigns ahead.
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.