Retain the voting age at 18
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We, the undersigned believe that the vote should NOT be extended to 16-17 year-olds because people legally become adults at 18 and that people in 16-17 age group may not have sufficient maturity and life experience to make political judgements and may still be under the influence of parents, teachers or college lecturers and may also be easily influenced by popular trends.
We therefore believe that:
1. Before Parliament discusses lowering the voting age, we need to start offering young citizens more opportunities to acquire political knowledge, skills and experience, especially given that citizenship education is a statutory subject only in England and Northern Ireland and provision across the UK is patchy and inconsistent. For instance, in Scotland, where the voting age has been lowered, only a third of young Scots take a modern studies course covering history, politics and current affairs.
2. Young people rarely get sufficient experience of representative politics before they vote and that the voting age should match the age at which citizens get other adult rights.
3. Although 16-17 year-olds can join the armed forces, get married and pay tax, these rights are not universally realised at the age of 16 and we could start to see young people being able to vote before they can legally do other things such as buy alcohol, tobacco products and gamble. This would essentially introduce a two-tier citizenship, making young voters feel even more excluded.
4. Lowering the age of enfranchisement to those aged below 18 without discussing its wide-ranging implications could prove a dangerous rather than radical step, and that lowering the voting age would, proportionally, decrease overall turnout, contrary to popular belief that broadening the vote would boost it. In terms of numbers, more people would indeed vote but it must be noted that in the most recent General Election just over 40% in the 18-24 age group voted, and we can only assume this figure would be similar, if not significantly lower, for the 16-17 year old age bracket.
Therefore, and noting that the majority of voters in opinion polls, including half of those in the 16-18 year old group, felt that the voting age should stay at 18, we call upon the government to resist the idea of lowering the voting age below 18.
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