Should 16 year olds be given the vote?

Should 16 year olds be given the vote?

With the Labour party promising to lower the voting age if elected to government in next May’s election, The Badger asks are 16 year olds ready for the responsibility?

Yes

Of course 16 year olds should have the vote. It’s crazy to me that at 16, you can fight – and die – for your country, have a child or get married, but you can’t have a say in the politics that affect you just as much as they do someone over-18.

The only counter argument in whether 16 year olds should be allowed to vote is that they may not understand politics well enough to make an informed decision, or be pressured by their family and friends to vote a certain way, but isn’t this true of anyone of any age?

I think it’s unfair to make a blanket judgement of 16 and 17 year olds as uninterested.

The problem with young people voting isn’t that they’ll vote for the “wrong” parties, but that they might not vote at all.

Politics needs to engage with the younger voter, after all, they are the voter, and maybe even the politician, of the future.

I saw this sort of engagement with the Scottish Independence referendum, where over 70% of those young people who turned out to vote voted in favour of independence.

Even my 17 year old sister, able to list the darkest secrets of the Kardashian family but not able to tell you the Prime Minister’s name, got involved in debates and discussions in the months leading up to polling day.

She, like many others her age, used the internet and social media to find out more information about things she didn’t understand, and had more facts and figures about currency and oil reserves to share than the older family members at the dinner table.

It was these young voters who knew about the BBC bias and the lies being published as facts by the UK Government.

It was those over 60 who fell victim to the scaremongering and voted ‘No’ by a considerable majority – so why wouldn’t we want these young people involved in – and, in their ways, challenging – the electoral process?

I’m obviously not suggesting we take the vote away from the over-60s, or start turning to teenagers to solve the world’s problems, but we need to recognise the shift in modern day politics.

People have access to internet 24 hours a day, anywhere in the world, and have the world’s knowledge quite literally at their fingertips.

They have the power to tweet MPs, sign online petitions and discuss and debate with people of all ages and backgrounds.

Where politicians could once hide the things they don’t want you to hear, modern technology can find those things and share them with the world. And who makes daily, natural connections to modern technology every day? Teenagers do.

Maybe that terrifies the people in power, but maybe that’s exactly what we want to do.

No

My passion for politics was confirmed in 2010 when, as a sixteen year-old, I was captivated by a General Election campaign that was surely to culminate in the end of thirteen years of New Labour.

To be quite honest, I was desperate to have my own vote to cast.

Yet looking back at myself as a fresh-faced teenager whose political ideas were exactly the same as my Dad’s, I know that extending the franchise would be the wrong thing to do.

If Ed Miliband has his way, a new pool of gullible, easily swayed young people will be at his mercy.

Consider the fact that in the Scottish referendum – where 16 year-olds were able to vote – 71% of those aged 16 and 17 voted yes to independence, compared to just 45% in

the result as a whole.

Some argue that that says young people were just more positive about the future of an independent Scotland.

I would argue that it says a lot about their inability to look at the bigger picture or properly assess the risks that the older generations could clearly see.

Surely this shows that people of that age, children that haven’t even started their A-levels, are too easily swayed by sweet talking politicians.

Turnout amongst 18 to 24 year-olds has been poor since the late 1990s, hitting an all-time low of 38% in 2005, but surely that should be addressed first before the age bracket is extended at the lower end.

This sort of move could potentially make the figures look even worse percentage-wise as the electorate will be larger.

Perhaps most surprising is the fact that, according to YouGov, 57% of 18 to 24 year olds are opposed to the voting age being

lowered.

That surely says that younger people are not at all confident that 16 year olds will use their vote wisely, if they vote at all.

Less of a surprise is the fact that 78% of over 60s reject the move.

They are more pragmatic, more risk-averse and more worldly-wise; they know that 16 year olds are too young to properly weigh up the options and make an informed decision.

Every 60 year old knows how immature they were at 16, how unformed their personal beliefs were and how they were easily swayed.

There are undoubtedly some extremely well-read 16 year olds who perhaps, as individuals, deserve to be able to vote.

However, that certainly doesn’t mean that they should all be able to.

A situation can be imagined where millions of teenagers have no idea about who to vote for, so they do the same as their parents, which often means not voting at all.

Indeed, there are probably a handful of 15 year olds who could vote and make an informed decision, but no one is suggesting that they should get the vote because everyone knows that they have no idea about their personal politics or what they believe in as human beings, how does an extra year change anything at all?

Yes, we need to look at ways to improve the democratic process, but lowering the voting age by two years would be ineffective in addressing the long term issues of low turnout, lack of awareness and a lack of interest in the political process.

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