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Calls to reduce voting age to 16

The major think tank Demos has suggested that the voting age should be reduced to 16, according to BBC News.

According to the Demos report, one million people aged 16 and 17 are disenfranchised by outdated attitudes. Demos Director Richard Reeves said that young people aged 16 are old enough to work and pay tax, but are not allowed to vote in an election. This is despte the fact that the Government and the country as a whole faces fundamental choices that will effect young people for years to come.

An increasingly ageing population will tip the voting demographic even further. This means that older people are likely to form the most powerful voting block in future elections. Demos’s research suggested that if 16 and 17-year-olds could vote, 41% would vote Labour, 30% would vote Tory and 21% would vote Liberal Democrat.

As Richard Reeves quite rightly states, of the first 100 British servicemen to die in Iraq, 6 were not old enough to vote. Therefore we are in the bizarre and nonsensical situation where a young person can put their life on the line for their country, but is deemed too immature to vote for the Government that will commit them to war in the first place.

Whilst it is great that more people are living longer, the changing nature of the British electorate could have negative effects on British politics. Increasingly politicians will pander to older people, which may not neccesarily be a positive thing for the future of Britain. I could imagine more funding and priorities going in this direction, as parties seek to buy the ‘grey vote’. Lowering the voting age to 16 would counterbalance this.

Not only that, but we often hear moans and groans about ‘the youth of today’. No wonder we have trouble involving young people in society if we disenfranchise them and cut them off. Lowering the voting age to 16 should go hand in hand with stronger citizenship lessons in school -not as token easy lessons but as a subject in its own right. That way young people will be educated about society and the choices that they face, and can put that knowledge into practise.

Young people aged 16 and 17 are more empowered and more involved in society than ever before. The voting age of 18 was set at a time when it was deemed that if you were not 18, you were not an adult. We only have to look at the progressive electoral reforms since the 19th Century – votes for women, for example – to see that the age limit of 18 for voting is the last great prejudice in electoral policy.

In my opinion there is no sound reason to keep the voting age at 18, apart from antiquated prejudice based on age old fears that young people aged 16 and 17 are too immature to make sensible choices – look at how some so called adults in politics behave! Not only that, but young people have a way of cutting through the bullshit.

If you are old enough to work, pay taxes, drive a car, get married and fight for your country, then you should be old enough to vote.

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