Political and Constitutional Reform Committee have called for the Government to introduce a free vote and debate in the House of Commons on whether 16 and 17 year olds to vote in all public elections. This follows submitted evidence earlier this year by The British Youth Council and the Youth Select Committee Votes at 16 report. Thisnew report concludes that major changes to voting arrangements are needed – such as online voting – to re-engage the British public with politics and elections; particularly young people (51% of which voted during the 2010 General Election).
The British Youth Council undertook a focus group consultation in October 2014 with young people from across the country which concluded that online voting was a good idea but ensuring the electorate’s safety online is important and should not be overlooked. It also stressed that franchise should be extended to 16 and 17 year olds; hand in hand compulsory quality political education in schools.
BYC has a long history of campaigning for or the extension of the franchise to 16 and 17 year olds, listening to both young people and politicians call for a new voting age. In 2013, it was made evident once again that young people were still passionate about seeing the voting age lowered following the UK Youth Parliament’s ballot of 476,000 young people UK-wide which selected votes at 16 as the number one debate choice for the House of Commons that year.
Public opposition easing – although the report showed that the UK public were still marginally against (51%) lowering the voting age, 9% dont know, 40% were now in favour. This is double the number in favour compared with 18 months ago when a YouGov poll (Aug 2013) showed only 20% in favour and 60% opposed. The Electoral Commission Scottish Referendum Report (2014) showed the public are now 60% in favour. Times change.
Mita Desi, Chair of the British Youth Council, said:
“BYC have been leading the conversation on lowering voting age to 16 since 1998, and we’re delighted that once again we have more evidence that 16 and 17 year olds should be given the vote. During the Scottish Referendum we saw 75% of 16-17 year olds vote on the future of Scotland just proving to the rest of the UK that they want to be heard and will take part if they’re given an authentic opportunity.”