October 2021: Teenage Voice
YOUTH suffrage has been a significant cause of debate over the last few years, with politicians and political parties such as Jeremy Corbyn, the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party all supporting a lower voting age, it’s about time that the government took action.
At 16, young people can get married, join the armed forces, and make life-changing decisions regarding their education and career prospects, and yet they are still one of the few groups of people across England ineligible to vote. The legal age of consent is set at 16, with the government therefore suggesting that young people are mature to leave home and start a family, and yet they do not feel that they are developed enough to have a say in the issues that will impact them most.
Over 1.3m young people are denied the right to vote.This would have been enough to change the outcomes of the Brexit Referendum or the 2017 General Election. Therefore, by enfranchising these young people, our democracy would better represent the views of the people. It’s crucial in a democracy for citizens to be able to use their political voices to make change, and the youth are being ignored. If we begin to involve our citizens from a young age, voting will become habitual, and will increase the political franchise significantly. When a young person is still part of a family community, it has been proven that their participation rates increase significantly.
Clearly maturity is not suddenly bestowed on someone upon their eighteenth birthday; it’s purely an arbitrary age which happens to be recognised as the ‘age of majority’. Many 18-year-olds are still in college, just the same as 16 and 17-year-olds, and at the end of the day, what is separating these two cohorts? Can we really base our entire democratic system around a purely random figure?
In countries where 16 and 17-year-olds are already allowed to vote, it has been statistically proven that this demographic is more likely to vote than the 18-25 bracket. The world is changing, and young people are more inspired than ever to make change, and by allowing this, political participation will rise significantly, creating a much more democratic state, something that parties across the political spectrum would support.
Greta Thunberg was 16 when she gave her speech at the United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York. While she may only be one girl, there’s a whole generation of activists who have emerged over the last few years. On March 15, 2019, over 1.4m pupils around the world, walked out of school to strike against climate change: resulting in a week of action. Surely this is enough proof that young people are mature and responsible enough to cast their votes regarding our country’s future?
With the implementation of the draconian Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, young people’s voices will be even further jeopardised. If the government are going to include further complicating factors into young people’s right to protest, surely, it’s only right for them to extend the franchise in response?
The political system is far from perfect, but by giving 16 and 17-year-olds the right to vote, it’s inevitable that we will see an increase in political participation and understanding, not just by our teenagers, but across all demographics.
By George Townsend