Votes at 16 and 17 to receive Royal Assent in Wales today

Posted on the 15th January 2020

Campaigners celebrate after securing extension of the franchise

  • Statement for immediate release from the Electoral Reform Society, 15th January 2020
  • For queries or interviews please contact: Jess Blair on [email protected]/ 07773555390 and is available for phone interviews.
  • The Bill is expected to receive Royal Assent at 1:15pm

16 and 17 year olds will officially be granted the right to vote for Welsh Assembly (Senedd) elections today, after the Senedd and Elections (Wales) Act receives Royal Assent. 

This legislation will be entered onto the statute book in Wales, following a ceremony this afternoon – marking the biggest change to the franchise in Wales since the reduction of the voting age from 21 to 18 in 1969.

It follows campaigning from ERS Cymru and a coalition of youth and civil society campaigners.

A separate piece of legislation is currently progressing through the Senedd on extending the right to vote for 16- and 17-year olds for the next Welsh local government elections, due to take place in 2022.

The Electoral Reform Society have said this is a ‘momentous day in the campaign for a fairer franchise’, with Wales joining Scotland in introducing votes at 16/17. 16 and 17 year olds can also vote in Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man.

Jess Blair, Director of ERS Cymru said:

“This is a real step forward for young people across Wales, and a real campaign victory. 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 we’ve spoken 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.

“These changes send a decisive signal that 20 years after devolution Wales now has significant powers to do things differently and change the way elections work. England looks increasingly isolated on this, and it’s a constitutional injustice that 16/17 year olds in Wales will continue to be denied the vote. It’s time for the government to get behind this win-win policy.

“Unfortunately, a generation of young people in England and Northern Ireland will now be left behind, while Scotland and Wales make major strides in strengthening democracy. Let’s build a truly united franchise for the UK and extend it across the board.

“Instead of throwing up barriers to people voting through mandatory ID, Westminster should look at the efforts being made in Wales and Scotland to build a better, fairer democracy.”

ENDS

Notes to Editors

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.

Further research has showed that these young people planned to stay politically engaged. A survey carried out in February 2015 (after the Scottish Independence Referendum in 2014) found that 67% of 16 and 17-year-olds in Scotland indicated they would likely vote if allowed to do so in the General Election, compared to just 39% south of the border.

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