A week today a private members bill will go into its second reading. Labour’s Jim McMahon MP is proposing the ‘Young People’s Enfranchisement and Education Bill’ which will see the voting age lowered to 16. He collaborated with Oldham Youth Council to create the Bill. At present 314 MPs support extending the franchise to 16 year olds.
In the Scottish referendum 75% of 16 and 17 year olds turned up to vote. So the argument that young people do not care or aren’t engage is not true. What is true is that we need to ensure we create a voting habit amongst our young people because whilst 75% of 16 and 17 year olds voted, 54% of 18-24 year olds turned up. Both Norway and Austria evidence this, the involvement of 16 and 17 year olds in elections highlights the assurance of a voting habit.
If the Scottish referendum wasn’t enough, the recent general election saw the highest turn out of young people since 1992. Arguably, it was young people turning up that really made the difference and ensured Theresa didn’t get the majority she so desperately wanted. ONS analysis indicates if 16 and 17 year olds were given the vote there are 88 seats that could change the winner, 30 of which are Conservative held seat – getting why the Tories don’t agree with lowering the voting age now?
So the stats show young people are engaged, despite many arguing they are not. Why else shouldn’t young people be allowed to vote?
Well, I have been calling for the extension of franchise since 2014. Councilor John Ennis proposed a motion that ensured Reading Borough Council endorsed and promoted lowering the voting age to 16.
During the debate, the Conservative opinion on lowering the voting age was heard loud and clear. Conservative Councilor Simon Robinson said “the right to vote is a privilege and it should be given to people in employment’. So essentially, the Conservative’s argument is that young people do not contribute to society enough. Labour Councilor Sophia James rightly highlighted many young people do work from the age of 16 and she said she had been working since she was 15.
It just makes no sense – you can have a baby with your MP, drive your MP around their constituency and pay towards your MPs salary but you cannot vote for your MP?!
1.5 million 16 and 17 year olds are denied the vote. Write to your local MP and make sure they go to the Private Members Bill Friday and vote to enhance democracy.