Votes at 16

”Let 16-year-olds vote in all UK elections”

11 October 2012

Public Service - analysis_opinion_debate

After the government compromised by allowing 16-year-olds to vote in the forthcoming referendum on Scotland leaving the UK, demand is growing to do the same for all elections in the UK.
The argument goes that 16-year-olds can die for their country, have sex, work or get married so why shouldn’t they be able to vote? However, cynics have said that any changes would simply give young people the chance not to bother voting.
The Liberal Democrats backed the call, issuing this statement: “We believe that if we’re going to treat these young people as adults in so many other respects, let’s treat them as adults when it comes to voting too.”
However, peers have already put major question marks against the idea and said it would not be inevitable, with one asking how the change would be paid for and pointing out that it would bring politics into schools. Another said that the proposal had “huge implications” and had to be thought through very carefully.
The Lib Dem peer Lord Wallace commented: “The franchise for referendums is set out in the legislation that enables each referendum to take place. If we agree to transfer powers to the Scottish Parliament to hold a referendum then it is they who would determine the franchise.”
North East Derbyshire Labour MP Natascha Engel told the BBC: “We’ve been campaigning for a very long time to lower the voting age to 16 and this is a very exciting opportunity that’s being presented in Scotland to demonstrate that when you do give the vote to 16-year-olds that the sky doesn’t fall in. I’d very much welcome to have a debate on the floor of the House of Commons on lowering the voting age to 16 and I think the time has come for it, I think attitudes have shifted.”
But Former Scotland secretary Lord Forsyth commented: “What is happening here is that Alex Salmond is attempting to bully the Prime Minister into agreeing to having 16-year-olds voting in the Scottish referendum in return for having a single question on independence, which is what he committed himself to in his manifesto. I think once that has happened it will be impossible to argue that 16-year-olds should not have the vote in all elections.”

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