On Friday 3rd November, MPs debated a bill to reduce the voting age to 16. Rosie supported the bill and here’s why:
There are 1.5 million 16-17 year olds in UK. Every one of them denied the right to vote. They can pay taxes, get married, join the army, obtain welfare benefits, become a member of a trade union, and enjoy many other freedoms. Many 16 and 17 year olds are also full-time carers to their relatives. They take on adult responsibilities, but can’t exercise their democratic rights as adults.
Though our constituency of Canterbury is known worldwide for its history and heritage, it is also a vibrant city filled with students and young people. Rosie regularly visits schools and community groups, and has spoken to halls full of 16 and 17 year olds who are frustrated with having no say in the decisions that are made on their behalf. Those who are leaving school for work, are frustrated that they will be taxed and won’t have a say in how their money will be spent. Many also feel uncomfortable listening to MPs discuss education and tuition fees, without being able to contribute to the decision-making.
One of the objections made by the opposition is that 16 and 17 year olds lack the knowledge and maturity that is needed to vote. This argument doesn’t wash. People of all ages make uninformed votes. And even so, young people are much more informed than they are often given credit for. Young people live in a digital world, where they are constantly exposed to ever-evolving news. It’s time we stop undermining them, and start valuing their fresh approach to politics. We should also be looking to schools, to ensure young people receive decent teaching on politics and citizenship. If it’s true that some young people are uninformed on politics, the answer, as always, is education.
Theresa May says the vote is not needed for young people to participate in politics. She suggests that they participate in Mock Elections to a Youth Parliament instead. Overlooking the fact that the Youth Parliament are entirely powerless. The only real way of giving young people a voice, is to give them the same vote as adults.
Breaking the status quo will always be difficult, but opening our democracy to 16-17-year-old’s would be a bold, positive move that shows how much our country has advanced as a democracy.