Votes at 16
Votes at 16
The Scottish independence referendum showed once and for all that 16 and 17 year-olds are more than capable of taking important political decisions.
What's the issue?
A precedent was set by the Scottish independence referendum that when a vote is being held on an issue of great constitutional importance, 16 and 17 year-olds should have their say too. Many 16 and 17 year-olds who had a vote in the independence referendum were denied a voice in electing their local MP in May; they and their peers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland must be given one in the upcoming EU referendum.
Why Votes at 16?
Evidence from the Scottish independence referendum, substantiated by research from Austria and Norway, shows – aided by the encouragement of families and schools – 16 and 17 year-olds have higher rates of turnout than 18 to 34 year-olds.
Whilst there is no silver bullet for improving citizen participation in formal politics and no singular cause, the way young people come into contact with politics in their formative years is crucially important for the future of representative democracy. If young people are registered early and get into the habit of voting, we will see lasting improvements in turnout. If they vote early, they vote often!
The next generation of voters are the first to have received citizenship education, yet are being denied their full rights as citizens. Lowering the voting age to 16 would allow a seamless transition from learning about voting, elections and democracy to putting such knowledge into practice.
The first generation of voters who have needed to study our democracy are denied the right to use this knowledge in a General Election for at least two further years, up to a possible seven years. And that's a missed opportunity.
Who supports Votes at 16?
The Electoral Reform Society is a founding member of the Votes at 16 coalition. Votes at 16 are not just supported by the SNP, Labour, Liberal Democrats and the Greens – but also by the leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Ruth Davidson who says she is a “fully paid-up member of the ‘votes at 16’ club now".
Following the success of the Scottish independence referendum, the Scottish Parliament unanimously voted to introduce votes at 16 in Scottish parliamentary elections. The National Assembly for Wales will also have powers over the voting age for Welsh Assembly and local government elections devolved to it later this Parliament. It would be a shame if something as fundamental as the franchise itself were another wedge driven between the nations of the United Kingdom.
Where can 16 year olds vote?
16 and 17 year olds in the Isle of Man, Jersey, Guernsey, Brazil and Austria are already able to vote. They can also vote in some elections in Germany and Norway.
What you can do?
You can find out more about the Votes at 16 campaign on their website.
And if you’re passionate about making politics better you can join us in our fight to build a better democracy.