SHOULD THE VOTING AGE BE LOWERED TO 16?

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1 SHOULD THE VOTING AGE BE LOWERED TO 16? OPINIONS How many more years do we have to wait until the vote is extended to everyone over 16? It was this country that led the way in Europe and the Englishspeaking world in reducing the voting age to 18. Emily Thornberry, Labour MP I think it is important young people watch politics, pay attention to politics, get to think about their own views and where possible start to get involved. You have to pick a point at which you think it is right for the voting age to be. I continue to think it is right for it to be 18. Theresa May, Prime Minister We should be trusting young people to have a real say about the future direction of their country, not shutting them out. Caroline Lucas, Co-Leader of the Greens I m glad the Government thought we were able to make decisions for our country. I do think this referendum has taught the younger generation a lot about politics. Erin, one of the first 16-yearolds in British history to vote THE DILEMMA Earlier this year, the Welsh Government announced plans to lower the voting age for council elections from 18 to 16. The change would come into effect in 2022, allowing people in Wales aged 16 and 17 a say in who runs their local authority. The announcement was made 100 years after women in the UK were given the vote. In Scotland, 16- and 17-year-olds already have the vote for Scottish Parliament and local government elections. The lowering of the voting age there began in 2014, when people aged 16 and 17 were allowed to take part in a UK vote for the very first time: the Scottish independence referendum. The vote saw a majority choosing to keep Scotland in the United Kingdom. Of the 3.6 million who turned out to vote, over 100,000 were aged 16 and 17. Since 1969, 18 has been the minimum age for voting in the UK. Before that, you had to be 21 to have your say. Most major political parties in the UK support lowering the voting age for all elections including local and general elections to 16. The parties in favour of lowering the age are: Labour, Liberal Democrats, Greens, Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru. The parties against it are: Conservatives, UKIP. Should 16 and 17-year-olds have a say in their futures? Or should the vote be reserved for adults with more life experience?

2 The Big Debate SHOULD THE VOTING AGE BE LOWERED TO 16? Friday 16 February 2018 UK ELECTIONS EXPLAINED General elections Usually held every five years, a general election allows British citizens aged 18 and over to choose their Member of Parliament. This is the politician who will represent their constituency (a geographical area) in the House of Commons. The party with the most MPs forms the Government. Local government elections Also known as council elections, these take place every four years. In local elections, voters choose their councillors. These are the politicians who make decisions about local services, such as libraries, care homes, leisure centres and parks. As well as British citizens, people from EU countries can also vote in these elections. You must be 18 or over apart from in Scotland, where you must be 16+. Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly, Northern Ireland Assembly and London Assembly elections These political bodies have the powers to create rules or laws and decide how money is spent. In Scotland, the parliamentary elections are open to people age 16+. In Wales, London and Northern Ireland, voters must be 18+. Referendums These are very rare in the UK. The most recent referendum was on the UK s membership of the European Union, which took place in In a referendum, voters are asked a question and usually respond yes or no. Voters in nationwide referendums must be 18+. Scottish Parliament

3 FACTS & FIGURES There are currently 650 MPs in the House of Commons. Women over 30 were given the vote in It wasn t until 1928 that women and men got equal voting rights (and they had to be 21 or older to vote). Nancy Astor In 1919, Nancy Astor became the first ever female British MP. Prisoners are not currently allowed to vote in UK elections, but a small number may be allowed to do so soon. More than 45 million people are eligible to vote in the UK. Turnout at the Scottish independence referendum was 84.6%. 84.6% Many of the people who are eligible don t bother to vote. Turnout (the amount of people who voted) in the 2017 general election was just 68.7% of all eligible voters. In 1950, it was 83.9%. There are more than 1.6 million 16 and 17-year-olds in the UK.

4 VOTING IN THE UK: A BRIEF HISTORY 1432 King Henry VI passes laws declaring men who own land worth at least 40 shillings, or a freehold property, eligible to vote. Around half a million people nationwide get the vote The electorate increases to over a million, or about one in six of all adult males, when the Government allows men who rent property above a certain value to vote In the same year, a woman called Mary Smith presents the first petition calling for votes for women to Parliament. She isn t successful All male homeowners over the age of 21 are allowed to vote. That was about 5.5 million men The Women s Social and Political Union (WSPU) is formed by Emmeline Pankhurst and two of her daughters. Mrs Pankhurst is arrested, tried and imprisoned on a number of occasions over the next ten years as she fights for women s votes. Pankhurst being arrested outside Buckingham Palace 1918 After World War I finishes, all men over the age of 21 and most, though not all, women over 30 are allowed to vote, increasing the electorate to 21 million. Whereas all men could now vote, women had to own property to be eligible All women over the age of 21 are allowed to vote for the first time. Now 28 million people are eligible to vote A weird law that allowed university students and some property owners two votes per person is scrapped A Labour government lowers the voting age for all citizens to 18.

5 AROUND THE WORLD In the vast majority of countries around the world, voting starts at 18. But Scotland isn t the only country where people can vote at age 16. Here s a list of voting ages from around the world Ecuador, Brazil, Argentina, Austria (the only other country in the EU where 16-year-olds can vote), Hungary (16-year-olds can only vote if they are married), Malta (only in local elections). Three territories (not countries) for which the UK is responsible have votes for 16-year-olds: the Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey. Certain states in Germany allow 16-year-olds to vote in state elections. Certain regions of Norway and Switzerland also allow 16-year-olds to vote. East Timor, Ethiopia, Indonesia, North Korea, Sudan, Greece. South Korea. Bahrain, Cameroon, Japan, Nauru, Taiwan. 21+ Malaysia, Oman, Samoa, Singapore, the Solomon Islands, Saudi Arabia (women can only vote in local elections), Tonga. Voting is compulsory in some countries, including Argentina and Australia, and people are fined if they don t cast a vote on election day. However, in Brazil, Argentina and Ecuador, 16- and 17-yearolds are not obliged to vote. DID YOU KNOW... In 1893, New Zealand became the first self-governing country to allow women to vote.

6 UK AGE LAWS Here s what you are allowed to do at different ages in the UK: At 14 you can work part-time, for a maximum of two hours before or after school, or on a Sunday, but up to five hours on a Saturday and during the school holidays. You can go into a pub or bar and order soft drinks. At 15 you can work up to eight hours on a Saturday, and you can view 15-rated films. At 16, a lot changes. You, not your parents, can consent to medical treatments. You can leave school, work full-time, claim benefits, order your own passport, have sex, get married (with parental consent) and join the military. You can also rent your own home and drink beer, wine or cider with a meal in a pub or restaurant if you are with an adult. You can also play PEGI 16-rated video games. At 17 you can drive most vehicles and give blood. In Northern Ireland, this is the age of consent for sex. A young blood donor At 18 you are an adult. You can Sunbeds can only be become an MP, serve on a jury in used by adults a court, get married without your parents permission, buy alcohol, buy fireworks, buy cigarettes, gamble, use a sunbed, watch 18-rated films and play PEGI 18-rated video games. BOOSTING TURNOUT Politicians of all parties agree that turnout needs to be higher in UK elections. The more people who engage with politics and vote, the better, because it means they have a say on their future and the election result better reflects what the nation is thinking. The lowest turnout ever was in 2001, when just 59.4% of the electorate bothered to vote at the general election. Just four years earlier, it was 71.4%. The Houses of Parliament Would extending the vote to younger people boost turnout? That s the argument often used by people in favour of lowering the voting age. The truth is it s hard to know for sure, but evidence so far shows it hasn t made a huge difference. According to a survey after the 2014 Scottish independence referendum, turnout among 16- and 17-year-olds was about ten percentage points lower than overall turnout. So 75% of 16- and 17-year-olds voted, and 84.6% of the entire electorate voted. Still, turnout was higher among those aged than those aged In Austria, it s a similar story: the 16- and 17-year-olds turnout in elections is usually higher than for year-olds, but lower than the overall turnout. MATURE ENOUGH? Opponents to lowering the voting age argue that people have not formed clear, mature ideas on politics at age 16. They think that voting should be for adults only, because by 18 people are more likely to have formed their own thoughts and principles, and can better understand issues such as the health service, the economy and immigration. But the counter-argument is that, if 16-year-olds are mature enough to leave school, get a job and join the army, then they are mature enough to have a say over which political party rules over them. Giving younger people the vote is also an opportunity to inform and educate teenagers about politics and the big issues affecting the country. Being young doesn t mean being ignorant!

7 YES, THE VOTING AGE SHOULD BE LOWERED TO 16 NO, THE VOTING AGE SHOULD STAY AT LET YOUNG PEOPLE HAVE A SAY You can do so much at 16 and 17, including driving and joining the army. So it seems unfair that you cannot have your say on who should govern your future. If you are working at 16 and paying taxes you are contributing to your country and your voice should be heard. 2. IT WOULD ENGAGE YOUNG PEOPLE IN POLITICS If the voting age was lowered, schools, colleges and politicians themselves would have to engage more with young people. This would encourage teenagers to become informed and find out why politics is important. 3. IT WOULD MEAN MORE FOCUS ON YOUTH ISSUES If 16- and 17-year-olds have the vote, politicians will have to start coming up with policies that appeal to them. This could mean policies that will benefit schools, universities, youth clubs, child protection and more. 1. TEENS DON T TURN OUT TO VOTE MORE THAN OTHER AGES At the 2017 general election, 57% of year-olds voted a lower turnout than any other age group while 84% of over-70s voted! The data so far suggests that 16- and 17-year-olds aren t rushing to vote more than any other age group. Overall turnout may not be improved at all. 2. THEY ARE TOO YOUNG TO TRULY UNDERSTAND THE ISSUES To have a say on the country s economy, armed forces, immigration policy and more, people need to be informed and able to make a mature decision. 18-year-olds are more likely to be able to form mature opinions than younger teenagers. 3. ADULTHOOD IS THE TIME TO GET THE VOTE 18 is the age at which we legally become adults. It s when we become totally in control of our lives. It makes sense, therefore, that 18 should be the age when we get to choose who represents us in parliament.

8 Will you vote, when given the chance? In some countries, it is compulsory to vote. Should it be compulsory in the UK, too? How can you find out more about politics and how it affects you? Does it matter if people vote or not? How important is it to you that we live in a country where people can choose their Government? At what age do you think voting should be legal? Do you think politicians would create policies to help 16- and 17-year-olds, if they were allowed to vote? If you were asked to vote in an election tomorrow, which political party would you vote for? Why?

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