by prestwichfocus on 4 February, 2015
Last Wednesday at Bury’s Full Council I was happy to support a debate calling for votes to be given to 16 and 17 year olds.
This has been a Liberal Democrat commitment for many decades and a commitment in recent manifestos. More recently other parties have have also joined the campaign. 16 and 17 year olds were given the vote in last year’s Scottish Independence Referendum.
For me the issue is a simple on. 16 and 17 year-olds are allowed to work, to get married, to consent to sexual activity and to pay tax. Crucially we allow 16 and 17 year olds to join our armed forces and fight on our behalf. If people are able to do these things, then I see no reason to say people cannot vote.
People who are opposed to votes at 16 will often say that 16 and 17 year olds are ‘not interested’, or would ‘not understand’.
I cannot help thinking that the same arguments would have been used when ‘ordinary’ people (e.g. not landed gentry) were given the vote i the 19th century, or when women were given the vote.
What is right is that many young people do not take part in our political process – the number of young people who vote in elections (particularly local elections) is significantly lower than older members of society.
I believe that as politicians we have a responsibility to represent all our residents, and encourage everyone to take responsibility for our community, our local area and our country. Votes at 16 would only be a part of solving the problem, but a great step in the right direction.
More information about the Votes at 16 Campaign here.Leave a comment