- The Body Shop and the British Youth Council have launched a new petition in partnership, calling for the voting age to be lowered to 16 for all UK elections.
- 76% of young people believe voting rights should be equal across the UK.
- Whilst the voting age is 16 for Scottish and Welsh local elections, 1.5 million 16-and-17-year-olds in England and Northern Ireland are denied the same opportunity.
As May’s local elections fast approach, young people and campaigners are calling for an end to the voting postcode lottery in the UK.
Currently, the voting age is 16 for local elections in Scotland and Wales, but 18 for England and Northern Ireland. This means that over 1.5million 16-and-17-year-olds in the UK do not have a say in the decisions that will define their future.
The Body Shop and the British Youth Council are launching a new formal petition calling on the government to lower the voting age to 16 as well as introducing measures to break down barriers that prevent civic engagement, voter registration and political education.
According to a survey from The Body Shop, three in four (76%) young people believe in putting an end to this inequality across nations with equal voting rights across the UK.
Encouraging political engagement continues to be an issue amongst younger voters, particularly those aged 18-25, with almost two-fifths of this group admitting that they didn’t vote in the last election.
But studies of Scottish early enfranchisement have shown that lowering the voting age has helped to ensure long-term political engagement and sustained voting behaviour throughout adult life.
Young people told The Body Shop, in the survey, that the top three ways to encourage them to vote include lowering the voting age, more accepted ID options and better political education.
Maddie Smith, Managing Director UK & Ireland at The Body Shop, said: “A large portion of young people in the UK are excluded from the voting system, and silenced on topics that directly impact their future. We know that 71% of young people don’t feel that political parties and candidates speak directly enough to them in the run-up to elections, and this postcode lottery puts young people in England and Northern Ireland at a significant disadvantage.
“We’re fighting an uphill battle against issues such as climate change, growing inequality and economic uncertainty which is why we need to rewrite the rules to help us find solutions. Youth voices are vital to change which is why the government needs to end the voting inequality and grant votes at 16 across the UK.”
Lucy Hulme, Chair of the British Youth Council Votes at 16 Youth Action Group, said: “There are close to 1.5 million 16- and 17-year-olds in the UK, yet the current system prevents them from making decisions regarding their future.
“As the scale and complexity of concerns facing our societies continues to increase, more needs to be done to factor youth voices into the decision-making process. We’re committed to the fight for our democratic voice and are confident this petition will showcase the extent of support for lowering the voting age. The future belongs to all of us, it’s only right that we shape it together.”