What’s the issue?
Young people are less likely to to vote than older people, and if you don’t vote, you are less likely to vote in future. There is a real danger that 18 year olds who don’t vote now, will become 50 year olds who don’t vote in the future. We need to break this cycle, and the evidence points to extending the franchise as a way to do it.
Extending the franchise is vital to nurturing more active citizens for the future health of our democracy.
Why 16 and 17?
The way people come into contact with politics in their formative years is crucially important for the future of our democracy.
When they can vote, 16 and 17 year olds have higher rates of turnout than 18 to 24 year-olds – with 75% voting and 97% saying they would vote in future elections. They accessed more information from a wider variety of sources than any other age group.
If you vote, you are more likely to vote in future. So as 18 year olds who don’t vote become 50 year olds who don’t vote, 16 and 17 year olds who do vote will continue to vote as they age.
Extending the right to vote would allow a seamless transition from learning about voting to putting it into practice.
We have already potentially lost one generation. We cannot deny the first generation of voters who have studied our democracy the right to use this knowledge in a General Election. That’s a missed opportunity.
Who supports extending the right to vote 16?
16 and 17 year olds in Scotland and Wales can vote for their members of the Scottish and Welsh Parliaments, as well as their local councillors.
Yet Westminster denies 16 and 17 year olds who voted for their MSPs or MSs a voice in electing their local MP.
Where people see votes at 16 in action, they don’t want to go back. Even former opponents, like the former leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Ruth Davidson, are “fully paid-up members of the ‘votes at 16’ club”.
Where can 16 year olds vote?
16 and 17 year olds can vote in national and local elections in Scotland and Wales. But the lack of movement on this issue in England is another wedge driven between the nations of the United Kingdom.
16 and 17 year olds in the Isle of Man, Jersey, Guernsey, Brazil and Austria also have the vote, as well as for some elections in Germany, Malta and Norway.