Should The Voting Age Be Lowered To 16?
- Live Mag UK
Whilst many believe lowering the voting age will engage the younger generation, not everyone agrees. Should the voting age be lowered? We speak to two of Live's contributors to see what they think.
Over 1.5 million 16 and 17 year olds are currently unable to vote in the UK. As the election looms ever closer, the argument surrounding whether the voting age should be lowered to 16 is being heavily debated, with some parties pledging to lower the voting age if they come into government. Amelia and Jez debate.
“When you turn sixteen, you have the choice to be responsible for yourself in many areas of life. You can give sexual consent, have a child, get a job and even join the army, but you have no choice in the government that decides whether or not to deploy you. If we are able to do all of these things which carry a great deal of responsibility why are we not seen as responsible enough to vote?
Teenagers are stuck in the middle between being seen as a child in some respects and treated as an adult in others. Many decisions that will affect the future of teenagers are made without them having a say. For example, recently, there have been several changes made to education that will have a huge impact on teenagers.
Unfortunately, many teenagers do not understand the world of politics and how it affects them. But, if they were able to vote, I think it would spark up an interest and they would become more aware of what is going on.
“It is important for our country to have politically aware teenagers.”
What incentive do teenagers have to be politically aware if they can’t vote? While this could be seen as a narrow-minded view, it makes sense to me that the majority of teenagers would respond this way.
By introducing the vote at 16 it would get young people interested in politics earlier, as it did in Scotland. I believe they would research and understand more about politics. It is important for our country to have politically aware teenagers: they are our future doctors, lawyers, soldiers , teachers, entrepreneurs, business leaders, bankers, MPs and even Prime Ministers.
According to their manifestos, the Scottish National Party (SNP) support lowering the voting age to allow those aged 16 and over the right to vote in all UK elections. Plaid Cymru also support votes for 16 and 17-year-olds to vote in the UK parliament and elections in the Welsh Assembly. The Green Party, Labour and the Liberal Democrats have also pledged to lower the voting age. So, what are UKIP and the Conservatives so afraid of?”
Jez Nicholson – 15
“Despite turning 16 in two months and having an interest in politics, I don’t think the voting age should be lowered.
Young people seem disengaged from politics and lowering the voting age won’t increase that interaction or improve their understanding. In the 2013 local elections, only an estimated 32% of 18-24 year olds voted. If this age bracket has such a low voting percentage, why would lowering the voting age to sixteen be of any benefit? By giving young people the ability to tick a box in a polling booth you aren’t explaining politics to them or encouraging them to actually be interested in what they’re voting for.
The Scottish referendum was an example of allowing sixteen and seventeen year olds to vote and the turnout was impressive. Due to this, many people use this as an example of why the voting age for all elections should be lowered. The Scottish referendum was essentially a ‘yes/no/undecided’ argument. It did not have as many options as a general or local election, which I think require more of an understanding of what you are voting for. A party’s manifesto talks about lots of different areas (eg. education, health care, the EU) and there are many parties, so your decision requires thought on each topic and each candidate.
“The majority of teenagers I know aren’t interested in politics.”
The majority of teenagers I know aren’t interested in politics. My friends will openly say that they know nothing about the Government. School doesn’t teach you anything about the different parties or manifestos (or even what a manifesto is) and it leaves teenagers feeling blind as to what’s going on.
From personal experience, understanding politics is more effort than most teenagers think it’s worth. By lowering the voting age you would just be allowing people with limited understanding of voting to take part, which doesn’t seem very beneficial. Arguably, adults may not be interested in voting either but surely by adulthood you have more of an understanding of the world and what will affect you. Before lowering the voting age we should make sure young people are educated in politics and all that in entails.”