Sweet Sixteen: Is It Time to Lower the Voting Age?

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Lucy Aplin

In an optimistic push towards a more modern democracy, the Welsh Labour Party have given 16-year-olds the right to vote in upcoming Welsh council elections.  

The move has already happened in countries like Norway, Australia and Scotland. The change, which has been supported by the SNP, Labour and the Lib Dems, will encourage more young people to become engaged in democratic processes.   

Here in dusty old England, I am neither shocked nor elated to tell you that the Conservatives have no plans to introduce the change for English 16-year-olds.

But what is it about the 16-year-old vote that Theresa May and her turkey neck tribe of dusty backbenchers take such issue with? Well, they seem to believe that 16-year-olds do not possess the life experience to vote properly, which is just patronising. Opposition to the change also claim that 16-year-olds copy the vote of their parents, which is not only condescending, but also actually wrong. It’s been found that young voters tend to do more research than any other voting demographic, and as a result they often end up swaying their parent’s voting habits instead.  

The Welsh government are giving young people a voice and a sense of responsibility

The Welsh will now enjoy a more engaged, youthful and diverse democratic discourse, despite the baseless drones of the backwards Conservatives over in England. And it’s this young democratic engagement that is so vital for countries like Wales, where they have the highest rate of youth unemployment in the UK. By encouraging young people to vote, the Welsh government are giving young people a voice and a sense of responsibility. They get a say in their future and the policies that will affect them the most, and they develop a civic duty and sense of belonging in a community that may once have felt alien and inaccessible.   

 It has also been found that the formative years of political voting are the most fundamental. Once someone votes, they are likely to continue. Wales should now see more civilian voting than ever before. And who can argue with the benefits of prolonged democratic commitment? 

 If you are still in two minds about whether Wales lowering the voting age is a good move, I remind you that 16-year-olds are required to pay tax under UK law. In my opinion, anybody expected to pay tax deserves the basic right to vote. Don’t think that a 16-year-old is capable of voting? Then don’t demand a portion of their wage.  

If they are old enough to serve in the armed forces, they are old enough to elect a government.  

This is not only common sense, but also common courtesy. Well done Wales.  

Jack Shannon

The debate surrounding extending suffrage to 16 and 17-year-olds always involves wheeling out the same old tired arguments. Proponents of widening the electorate in this way make the case that if a 16-year old can join the army and legally get married then this should entitle them to have a say in the way our country is run. I disagree.

For me, the saccharine reality TV vomit known as My Super Sweet 16 is justification enough not to extend the vote to 16-year-olds. For anyone who doesn’t know, it’s a TV show where rich little brats get to have their perfect sixteenth birthday party, paid for by their enormously wealthy, indulgent and delusional parents. The apotheosis of the show for me was when one of these egocentric oxygen-wasters threw a huge tantrum at her mum, because her $600,000 Ferrari 360 Modena was black, when the colour she wanted it in was red. This left me with that depressed and pessimistic feeling you get after watching an episode of Black Mirror and as far as I’m concerned, the show is enough reason never to enfranchise 16-year-olds. However, if you want some more tangible reasons not to extend the vote, read on.

The debate should be focusing on why we already grant such inappropriate freedoms at such a young age

In my view, the debate really should be focusing on why we already grant such inappropriate freedoms to individuals at such a young age, not whether we should be allowing them to vote as well. For instance, the admittance of 16-year-olds into the army seems to me to be borderline child cruelty – how can we criticise the use of child soldiers by third world militias when we are perfectly at home with training up our own children to kill? Even if we aren’t sending them off to the front-line until they’re slightly older, surely there’s something unethical about training an emotionally underdeveloped teen, brave as they may be, to take another person’s life. Equally, with the case of marriage, do any of us really believe that a 16-year old is ready to commit emotionally, legally and financially to a life-long relationship? I don’t see why it’s such a hardship to wait just two years and then make such an enormous commitment. We wouldn’t, and don’t, trust a 16-year old to drive – how is marriage any different?

It’s about time that we accept that the demographics of our society are changing

A recent article in the Daily Tory-graph highlighted a report by scientists arguing that adulthood now begins around 24 for most young people. To highly simplify the argument made by the report, as we are all living longer, we are all now delaying our break from adolescence to a later stage. Now, I’m not making the case that anyone should have to wait until they’re 24-years-old to vote, get married or join the army. But surely it’s about time that we accept that the demographics of our society are changing, and this should be reflected by making all the legal privileges and responsibilities of adulthood available from 18, but no younger.

Last modified: 5th February 2018

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