Call for Westminster to ‘back young people’ as votes at 16/17 comes into force in Wales

Posted on the 1st June 2020

  • Contact Josiah on mediaoffice@electoral-reform.org.uk / 07717211630. Spokespeople available for comment

Campaigners have called for Westminster to extend the franchise, as 16 and 17 year olds secure the right to vote in Wales today for Senedd elections. 

Votes at 16 & 17 come into force on Monday, as part of the Senedd and Elections (Wales) Act 2020 [1]. Around 66,000 16/17 year olds have secured the vote.

Next year’s 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.

The move follows campaigning from ERS Cymru and a coalition of youth and civil society campaigners [2].

ERS figures say Westminster now looks increasingly isolated for barring the UK’s 1.4m 16/17 year olds from picking their MP. 16/17 year olds can already vote in Scotland for all non-Westminster elections. The UK now has a ‘divided franchise’.

Figures on the number of 16/17 year olds by local authority area available [note 3]. 

Nia Thomas, a spokesperson for Electoral Reform Society Cymru, said: 

“This is a victory for young people, following campaigning from ERS Cymru and a coalition of youth and civil society campaigners.

“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.

“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 fairer franchise for the whole UK is now a matter of ‘when’, not ‘if’.

“As we’ve already seen in Scotland, this is a boost for our democracy as a whole – strengthening citizenship and boosting political engagement.

“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.”

ENDS

Notes to Editors

[1] http://www.legislation.gov.uk/anaw/2020/1/notes/contents
“In Part 3—(a)sections 12 to 26 come into force on 1 June 2020″

[2] See https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/latest-news-and-research/media-centre/press-releases/votes-at-16-to-receive-royal-assent-in-wales-today/

[3] Mid-2019 population estimate from the ONS here (Excel file).

ERS Cymru successfully lobbied parties to back votes at 16/17 during the last Senedd elections: https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/latest-news-and-research/publications/ers-cymru-manifesto/

The Society also provided evidence to the Welsh consultation on votes at 16: http://senedd.assembly.wales/documents/s86762/CLA5-12-19%20-%20Paper%201.pdf
The Society has long campaigned for extending the franchise https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/campaigns/votes-at-16/

UK wide, the Society works with the British Youth Council and other youth focused organisations – including on the All Party Parliamentary Group on Votes at 16 – to make the case for change: https://www.byc.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Votes-at-16-APPG-Campaign-Report-2019.pdf

In 2018 the ERS published the Conservative case for votes at 16/17: ‘Civic Duty’, ft figures such as now-Baroness Nicky Morgan: https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/latest-news-and-research/publications/civic-duty-the-conservative-case-for-votes-at-16-and-17/

Research

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 an 75% had taken part.

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