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For and Against: Lowering the voting age to 16

Last month MPs voted in favour of lowering the voting age to 16. Sarah Hay and Jenny Morgan debate whether or not this was the right decision.

FOR:

Last month MPs voted in favour of lowering the voting age to 16 and the motion was passed in the Commons by 119 to 46! Having such a huge majority, 73, makes you wonder how this hasn’t already happened. Considering the fact that at 16 you can already leave school, join the armed forces, claim benefit, apply for council housing; get married with your parents’ consent and start a family, why can’t you vote?

For many, the bulk of these things are proof of independence and show that you are an adult even though the official age of majority is 18. Although there is a lot of support for the idea, politically and publically, the move is not backed by Conservative party and a spokesperson for the prime minister said the government “has no plans to change the voting age”.

There is an opinion that young people are naïve and do not know what is best for their country; yet there are plenty of adults that are in much the same position and therefore probably choose not to vote. The most recent election showed a low electoral turnout especially in the under 25 age group which could have been a result of them distrusting politicians, a lack of knowledge of the parties and not feeling that they can make a difference. Although these views are shared by many 16 and 17 year olds, most still want a chance to vote.

Many young would-be voters argue that they should be allowed to have a say in changes that will affect their future. A recent controversial change, enacted by the coalition, was an increase in tuition fees which countless 16-17 year olds would not have wanted to come into effect as it will affect choice in higher education for many people in this age group. Many MPs agree and main supporter of this proposal, Lib Dem Stephen Williams thinks a change would be a “vital step in the renewal of Britain’s democracy”.

At the 2010 election in the UK, there were a lot of politically active and aware teenagers who would have liked to voice their opinions by voting but were too young. By having a live television debate, the teenage generation were able to get more involved in politics than ever and many schools carried out mock elections; having local MPs come into school to meet them.
If the voting age is lowered then teenagers who show an interest in politics will finally be allowed a say. This will probably result in more political education in schools so that new voters have a proper idea of the issues and who they are voting for and can pick the right candidate rather than being influenced by others. Overall, if someone has an interest in politics and support how the country is run then they should be able to vote no matter whether they are classed as an adult or not. JM

AGAINST:

At Sixteen years old I could just about get to grips with algebra, never mind the politics of the day. Have sixteen year olds really had enough life experience to decide the order of the country? Liberal Democrat MP, Stephen Williams believe they do, alongside a 116 to 49 vote in the House of Commons this January.

It is true, that at Sixteen years of age you can leave education, marry with parental consent and even buy a goldfish along with a handful of other opportunities but the implication of parental consent clearly shows that sixteen year olds are not adults in the eyes of the law. The idea that sixteen year olds, the majority of which that are in full-time education and do not pay taxes, could be able to decide how the tax-payer’s money is spent is truly baffling. Merely three years after becoming a teenager, sixteen year olds are not mature enough for ground-breaking decisions in the running of the country. Despite the majority of the House of Commons believing this would be a great idea, how many sixteen year olds would honestly care if they got to vote? I find it hard to believe that most sixteen year olds would even take the advantage to vote, considering most issues do not affect them, resulting in a complete waste of time. Surely most sixteen year olds lack interest and opinion on topics which consequently change the face of Britain while the other bunch are being influenced by their parents views anyway.

Statistics show that most 18-24 year olds do not even take their chance to vote, so the likelihood of sixteen year olds taking time from their precious computer to head down to the local polling station is even more unlikely. In fact, imagine how many votes the ‘Fancy Dress party’ and ‘Official Monster Raving Loony party’ would increase by if sixteen year olds suddenly got to vote.

Understandably, there are probably a minority of sixteen year olds that are eagerly interested in politics and would want to vote – but this does not escape the fact that they lack maturity and life experience in the political issues which are raised in the House of Commons. If the state can’t trust a sixteen year old with a Swiss Army penknife then honestly, how can they decide the future of political Britain? I agree that elements of society affect sixteen year olds, but it also affects every age – will Stephen Williams be suggesting the vote to ten year olds next too? This is a circle that will never end. The legal age to purchase tobacco and alcohol is eighteen years old, so let’s keep the status quo and keep the voting age at that too.SH

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