Voting Age in the UK to 16

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I believe that voting in general elections and by-elections should be a civil right, nay a civil duty at the age of 16 instead of the current 18. This is for many reasons, some of which I will explain. 

16 year olds have so many rights. At 16 you can seek employment, obtain a moped license, get married, have a child, leave home with or without consent, join the armed forces, and get a passport independently. All these things show legal and mental ability and independence. It has become an argument that people “so young” lack the mental capability to vote or decide for whom. Many of these things require more mental ability than voting. Or deciding to abstain, for that matter. If you can have a child, is it not your duty to help shape the world they will inherit and live in?

As I have previously stated, you can join the armed forces at 16. At 16 you can sign your life away for a cause that you may not agree with. You can sign your life away for a government that you didn’t have any choice in the leader of. You can sign your life away without any voice in the reason. If you can sign up to die for a group of people, should you not have the right to choose what that group of people stand for and who they are?

In addition to this, 16 year olds are tax liable! At 16 you pay money to a government which is not answerable to you and over whom you have no control. A government which diverts your money in a way unbeknown to you and which you cannot even attempt to decide. If you’re funding Trident, you should know. If you are funding the NHS, you should know. If you are funding education, education, education, you should know. For all of these as well as knowing, you should be able to decide if that’s appropriate. 

Children are educated about politics, voting, and the government from the age of 11 at secondary school through Social Sciences, Citizenship, or Religious Studies courses which all students are required to take. I have experience in the citizenship course and my brother in the religious studies course and we both obtained extensive knowledge about various parts of politics, including how and why to vote. This means that at 16, you have experienced 5 years of political education and are well equipped to vote. One could reasonably argue that 16 year olds are more knowledgeable and aware of politics than many adults. They would benefit greatly by being given the chance to put this into practise as citizens of the UK. 

On the issue of maturity, the argument is obsolete, studies have founds links between the maturity of 16-17 year olds and 22-26 year olds. One such study was performed and published by the American Psychological Association in 2009. Therefore, if 22-26 year olds can vote, 16-17 year olds should have the right too. 

16 year olds are also among the most aware and informed generation in history. With the internet, smartphones, and social media such as Twitter and Facebook, 16 year olds have petabytes of information available almost instantly. Twitter users such as @JonathanPieNews and @easypoliticsUK are tweeting with aims to inform, educate, and occasionally amuse others with their tweets. While not all 16 year olds participate in accounts like this, giving them a reason to would give way for an immense response. This leads on to my next point— engagement. 

Political engagement has long been an issue amongst every demographic throughout history. Some say there is no point, some say they are voiceless, and some simply do not care. These viewpoints surpass age, race, gender, and sex. These viewpoints were held by many women before the success of the suffrage movement in 1918. Many women did not care about voting or politics because they had no access to it. Once granted access, that performed a 180° turn (after a transition period). Would the same not be true for 16 year olds? If not, why not? This case study shows how issues of engagement can be solved by granting access and ability to exercise power as citizens of the UK. 

Turnout, contrary to popular belief, would not suffer after granting 16 year olds the right to vote. This is shown in the German states, the Swiss canton, Austria, and Scotland, where the voting age has been reduced to 16. The turnout of 16-17 year olds equaled that of older age groups, in some places exceeding that of older age groups. 

I’ve spoken to so many of my peers who are 16-17 years old and have had enriching, insightful conversations about politics that have gone on for hours on so many topics. These topics include the voting age, state exams, the ever present two party system, and so many more. If 16 year olds are capable of such conversations and having such passion and opinions then they should be able to exercise and express that passion and those opinions. 

To conclude, the voting age should be reduced to 16. I have proved this with common sense, anectodal evidence, psychological study and fact. Many people say that 16 year olds would not use that right for good or for the right reasons, but you cannot know that unless you give them a chance. If you found this interesting to read, you may also find it interesting that I, as of writing this, am 15 years old. 

If you have any comments or questions, I’d be happy to address them on mirajrb1@gmail.com



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