November 3rd2017 - This date marked the second reading of the Representation of The People (Young People’s Enfranchisement) Bill. Could this be the next step to 16 and 17 year old suffrage?
Since it was debated by youth MPs in the House of Commons in 2016, the right to vote at 16 has been made a national priority campaign by the UK Youth Parliament after members such as myself, and over 112,000 young people, voted it an issue. It is important to note that young people are not granted the opportunity to influence decisions that will, and already do, directly affect their lives. That is what many people think. Scotland on th
e other hand has granted its young people the right to vote in all elections, with students in school uniform queuing outside of polling stations. In the vote for Scottish Independence, an extraordinary 75% of 16 and 17-year olds voted, so why should it not be the same in England?
As time passes, society changes and the law adapts. Why is it that, in 2017, 16 and 17 year olds in England are denied the right to vote but yet are able by law to: pay income tax and national insurance; become a director of a company; obtain tax credits and welfare benefits or even get married? Young people are able to feed into the country economically, so why isn’t it possible politically?
Young people are the future of this country, and so the earlier we engage young people in democracy and politics, the greater the chance that we will promote and sustain a lifelong interest and commitment to voting and participation in our political system.
Young people learn about democracy and active citizenship in school PSHE lessons and in youth groups. However, just like learning how to revise effectively for tests, the best way to learn is to actually put the theory into practice; giving young people the vote at 16 allows them to practice what they learn. Voter participation needs to be encouraged and supported. Lowering the voter age will serve to feed a greater political consciousness amongst the youth.
Politicians are often said to only care about the electorate, and if young people are not part of the electorate, how will they ever be valued, active citizens in England? If we introduced a whole demographic of 16 and 17 year olds into the political system, it would force political parties to listen to their needs and take real action!
Express your passion on this topic by tweeting or emailing your local MP to know whether they support votes at 16 and gain further understanding on their political view on this issue.