Should the voting age be reduced to 16?


By Martha Smith, Eleanor Martin, Libby Roberts and Ayesha Rauf

A third of the world’s population is under 18 yet they lack any representation and have no say in how their country is run. In 2009, the UK Youth Parliament debated the minimum voting age and whether it should be lowered to age 16; they voted overwhelmingly for it to become a campaign priority. 9 years later there is still no action being taken about the vibrant and passionate young people of the country brimming with opinions, ideas and optimism.

The ‘Representation of the People Act’ established in 1969, lowered the voting age from 21 to 18. This was the last movement of progression relating to voting age as of yet. Since 1969, the voting age being lowered has been considered numerous times as a result of the Youth parliament or the Votes at 16 coalition group (launched in 2003). In 2004, the UK Electoral Commission conducted major parliamentary consultation and reached the decision that the voting age was to remain at age 18, thus further subduing the 16 to 17 year olds with an interest in politics and an envy for the Austrian 16 year old’s ability to vote.

In a 2006 interview with The Guardian, Gordon Brown (Chancellor of the Exchequer at the time) suggested that he favoured the voting age being lowered, provided that citizenship education was taught alongside it. Citizenship education is a subject that embodies the overall aims of the British curriculum.  It teaches confidence, leadership and responsibility. Teaching these skills to young people would be revolutionary. Not only would it make most under-eighteens well-equipped enough to vote, it would result in more teenagers having the ability to make a rational and well-informed decision about who they would vote for. It would also solve the government’s problem with insufficient voting turnout as it would create a rekindled devotion to politics.

We ran two surveys, one among our own year group (Year 9) and the other among a group of sixteen year-olds (Year 11). Two thirds of the Year 9 group voted for a lower voting age, and 72% of the Year 11 group voted for the lower voting age. It only takes a look at the survey to see the true hunger for change and the need for representation of such an enormous and hugely important group of people.