16 and 17 year olds can now officially vote in Wales for Senedd elections.
Votes at 16 & 17 come into force on Monday, as part of the Senedd and Elections (Wales) Act 2020.
Next year’s Senedd elections will be the first in which 16 and 17 year olds and legally resident foreign nationals are allowed to vote in Wales, in a major expansion of the franchise. Around 65,000 16/17s are expected to benefit.
The move is a victory for young people, following campaigning from ERS Cymru and a coalition of youth and civil society campaigners.
Westminster now looks increasingly isolated for barring the UK’s nearly-1.5m 16 and 17 year olds from picking their MP. 16 and 17 year olds can already vote in Scotland for all non-Westminster elections.
A survey commissioned by the Electoral Commission following the Scottish independence referendum (in which 16 and 17-year-olds were entitled to vote) found that 75% had taken part.
The move in Wales means 16 and 17 year olds will now rightly have a say over critical issues that affect their future, such as health, education and the economy.
As we’ve already seen in Scotland, this is a boost for our democracy as a whole – strengthening citizenship and boosting political engagement.
Over the past few years ERS Cymru spoke to hundreds of young people across Wales – the first set of young people that will be voting in 2021 – and they can’t wait to vote for the first time and truly have their voices heard.
Sadly, England now looks increasingly isolated on this, and it’s a constitutional injustice that 16/17 year olds there will continue to be denied the vote. It’s time for the government to get behind this win-win policy.
Extending the franchise for Westminster elections is now a question of ‘when’, not ‘if’. Will parties get on with it?
Sign the petition for votes at 16/17 for Westminster elections here.
Read ‘Civic Duty: The Conservative Case for Votes at 16/17’ here.