YES says Tara Paxton-Doggett, 12, from Wantage – a UK Youth Parliament candidate for South Oxfordshire
More than 1.5 million 16- and 17-year-olds are currently denied the vote in the UK. For years we have wanted the opportunity to have our say. Now the case for lowering the voting age is stronger than ever, so let’s make ourselves heard.
Since 1971, young people aged 18 and above have been eligible to vote.
People aged 16 and 17 can drive, drink, reach the age of consent and can get married (with their parents’ permission) but they are not able to vote for their Government.
There are many reasons why having a lower age limit would be good, and here are some of them.
Teenagers have to pay taxes and abide by laws.
Additionally, being a teenager doesn’t mean you’re less intelligent than adults. In fact, the human brain starts to shrink as you start to age, and become old. Furthermore, teenagers can often use the internet a lot better than adults. This allows them to access more information on important issues and more quickly reach informed opinions and decisions. They could reason with candidates and identify intelligent reasons whether to vote for them or for someone else.
Allowing teenagers to vote increases the number of voters making the government more representative of the people.
You are able to drink as well as being able to drive before you can vote. We know people can get hurt from driving but no one has ever been hurt or put in an unfortunate accident for voting in this country.
Lowering the voting age to 16 is becoming an international movement.
A growing number of nations such as Austria, Argentina and Germany have extended voting rights to people at 16 for national, regional or local elections.
Evidence from Austria confirms that extending voting rights to people after they turn 16 promotes higher turnout for first-time voters and Austria’s experience also shows that 16- and 17-year-olds are ready for voting as far as making choices that accurately reflect their views.
Research shows that if you introduce voting to teenagers while they are still at home it is more likely they will continue voting for most of their lives. This could radically reduce voter apathy which has been increasing for a number of years.
NO says Mark Bhagwandin, chairman of the East Oxford Conservative Association
Immediately after being asked to write this article, I asked my two teenagers, aged 16 and 17, whether they thought that they should be able to vote. Their response was a firm “no”. I then asked them who they would vote for, if they could vote. They both said “the Conservatives”. Not surprising. At 16 most young people show little interest in politics and, if they do, their views are largely shaped by the influence of their parents, teachers and people much older than they are.
My son tells me that voting is a responsibility he’s not ready to take on, and I think he’s nailed the central point in this debate. Voting is not just a right, it’s a responsibility. When we cast a vote, we are placing confidence in a group of people to make decisions on how billions of pounds of our money will be spent, how much more will be borrowed on our behalf and how much they will demand from us in taxes. In their hands, we entrust our country and economy with the hope that we will be better off. Try asking the average 16-year-old what they think of the government’s fiscal policies. Is the tax system efficient and fair? What are interest rates like and how will they affect the mortgage we pay?
These are big questions, which demand intelligence but also experience in dealing with issues that affect how much we are taxed, how much we pay in bills, our ability to find jobs, our access to health care, how much we pay in bills and so many other services. At 16 most young people are still at school and it’s their parents who think of these matters. If they have started working, their identification with these matters will come with experience.
The Labour Party harps on about 1.5 million people denied the vote at age 16. Well we can extend that to a few million more if we include 15-year olds, 14 or how about 13? There must be a threshold – the age of majority ie 18. Only a handful of countries allow voting at 16 and these are mostly in South America, where youths grow up fast, often not out of choice. I grew up there myself, so I know. Youths there face the issues highlighted above much earlier than in the UK and, understandably, they want a say in deciding who runs the country.
Instead of trying to grab headlines, Labour and the Lib Dems should encourage 18-year-olds to cast their vote since most of them never do.
Deal with the apathy among eligible young voters before asking even younger ones to decide who runs the country.