07 December 2007

Votes at 16

Julie Morgan, Cardiff North MP has presented a private members bill to reduce the voting age to 16.

This is surely not a controversial issue anymore, 16 year olds can pay tax, fight in the army and start a family - they should have this democratic right.

The clincher for me though, is, it will stop the anomaly of people not getting the chance to vote in a general election until they are 23. This is important because the stats show there is a big drop in turnout between those who got to vote at 18 and those who got to vote at 23. This will help address that.

Please support this bill and hope MPs can get this through - if even this small change cannot become law, there is little hope for a new electoral system.



14 comments:

  1. So a 16 year old who cannot drive a car, buy alcohol or tobacco, buy a gun (legally), get a HGV licence, or find their own arse with both hands and a map should be allowed to vote?

    Should we lower all of the ages for these other things too? Of course not!

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  2. A.Steve, The point for me is forming the habit of voting - they may be too young to have properly formed opinions - but then some 30 year olds are too young.

    The difference between voting and the other things you mention is that the act of voting doesn't kill people.

    Remember that lowering the age to 16 just reduces the average first time GE voter to 18. Only about 1 in 4, 16 year olds will get the chance to vote in a GE. I personally think we could reduce the age to 14 - this is about instilling responsibility and a voting habit into people from a young age (and allowing them to vote will not make much difference to the result.

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  3. Neilhasaverylowiq9/12/07 5:18 pm

    Anyone who has any income has to pay tax regardless of their age. The minimum age to join most regiments in the army is 17. Though what you can and can't do at age 16 is utterly irrelevant to voting age.

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  4. Perhaps, as we judge that children as young as ten are criminally responsible for their actions - we should also judge them old enough to vote? Who knows?

    What I do know is that voting is a good thing, reducing the age to 16 (as a first step) will help long-term turnout and what harm would it do?) Give people responsibility at a low age and it tends to be rewarding for both them and the wider population. Perhaps the reason the young feel so unempowered is because they are not consulted or listened to on so many issues that concern them.

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  5. This cunning plan wouldn't have anything to do with the fact that a disproportionate number of young voters are on the left, (ie before they come to their senses and notice that socialism makes peoples lives a misery), would it?

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  6. Falco, Actually the breakdowns I have seen for younger voters show a resurgence of support for the Tories (probably because they cannot remember how bad the Tories were). It is the 20-40 age groups where the Tories have lost support and are finding it hard to win back.

    I honestly can say that I would support PR and votes at 16, regardless of how it affects the left. The right can still win under PR as Sweden demonstrates. What I do believe however is that government will be more efficient and fair when it represents at least 50% of voters rather than 35% and expanding voting to 16 is also a good thing for democracy.

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  7. I genu8inly disagree with you on lowering the age because they are not adults. We don't treat them as adults, we don't expect the same standards of behavior from them as we do adults and so I believe that giving them the vote would be inappropriate. Yes we need to encourage greater voter participation but that should be within those able to vote rather than expanding the pool.

    The current cut of of adulthood makes, (at least some), sense. Going for 16 has no particular rationale to it, why not 15 or 14?

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  8. Falco, you say we don't treat them as adults, but surely, working, paying income taxes, getting married, having children legally, surely that is enough? We are only talking about casting a vote. We could make an argument that 18 is too low if you like because there are things people cannot legally do until they are 21 and it was only in 1971 they finally got the vote. As I have already pointed out, having the age at 18 effectively means the majority of people will not get a vote in a general election until they are over 20 and as late as 23. This makes as much as a 16% difference in the turnout between those who first voted at 18 and those who first voted at 23.

    "Turnout among 27-year-olds was only 49 per cent; among 28-year-olds, it was 65 per cent. Why? The only conceivable explanation is that the first group was too young to vote in the 1992 general election, and therefore had to wait five years to influence the choice of a government. The 28-year-olds, by contrast, had turned 18 in time for the 1992 election and went to vote with freshness and enthusiasm. This enthusiasm carried through to 1997 (when 70 per cent voted, against 64 per cent of those who just missed voting in 1992) and had diminished only slightly by the 2001 election".

    People are more likely to get the voting habit if they start early and this habit can last a lifetime.

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  9. Whatever age you have it at there will always be a lag for those who are the wrong are at election time. It's not an argument to change the age at which you can start doing it. The lag, not the age is the problem and I don't see how that is fixable.

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  10. Yes, but there are big changes that occur in people's lives between the ages of 18 and 23. Catching people before they start work or a family will have a massive impact.

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  11. I don't think that is the dominant problem. If you get the vote and then shortly afterwards the opportunity to exercise it you will be far more likely to use it. It's the delay that's the killer.

    I can't find any stats for voting proportions before they brought the age down to 18 but they would be interesting to look at, (given the higher popularity of voting at the time they may not be directly comparable though).

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  12. When I was contemplating a stint with the colours the minimum joining age was 17 1/2. The reason for this was that after 6 months of training a newly passed out grunt could join a frontline regiment aged at least 18. Even in the bad old days of Thatcher, the army didn't like the idea of child soldiers.

    I can't imagine that Labour have changed the rules subsequently.

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  13. I agree - so there is no good reason also for permitting driving at age 16. After all, if you are responsible enough to vote at 16 then you must be responsible enough to drive.

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  14. Stephen, No, that doesn't follow. Driving kills, voting does not and has far less impact when it is just going to add a few extra votes. 16 year olds need to be heard but they will not be in the majority. Once again we should not think in absolutes, the long term benefits of increasing the turnout of allowing 16 year olds to vote outweighs any negatives about their lack of experience and has little bearing on their other responsibilities.

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