Is It Time to Lower the Voting Age?

Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England), March 9, 2012 | Go to article overview

Is It Time to Lower the Voting Age?


FRESH calls are being made for 16 and 17-year-olds to be given the right to vote. But is it time to change the laws which have stood for decades? SANDY MCKENZIE reports.

THE RIGHT to vote is a cornerstone of democracy - and there are new calls for that right to be extended to younger people.

The Votes at 16 campaign is holding an Action Week to raise the profile of its call people aged 16 and 17 to be allowed to make their mark at elections in the UK.

The campaign points out that teenagers of that age are, by law, able to make complex decisions and take on wide-ranging responsibilities.

It notes they can take decisions such as giving full consent to medical treatment, paying income tax and National Insurance, getting married, and joining the armed forces.

It adds locking them out of the electoral process is patronising - and relies on outdated views about young people's capacities.

Support for the campaign has come from Alex Cunningham, Labour MP for Stockton North. He said residents should back the campaign to get the vote for 16 and 17-year-olds.

"This is a real opportunity to energise young people into taking democracy more seriously, he added.

"If young people had the vote their interests would be much better represented and we wouldn't currently be in danger of having a lost generation of young people.

"Of the first 100 British soldiers to die in Iraq, at least six were too young to have ever voted in a General Election - this is a disgrace, and the disenfranchisement of 16 and 17 years is quite simply outdated and undemocratic."

Former Young Middlesbrough Mayor Tom Robinson, who is looking forward to reaching the age to vote next month, said: "Giving 16 and 17-year-olds the vote will engage young people at the ballot box, empower young people to influence the decisions that will define their future, and will inspire more young people to take part in our democracy.

"As somebody who played an active role in local elections, from speaking to voters on the doorstep to delivering election leaflets, it was ironic a 17-year-old was encouraging others to vote, but was powerless to do so himself. …

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