about the votes at 16 campaign
We want our political system to recognise the abilities of 16 year olds. To properly include us in our society and show us the trust and respect that society expects of us by giving us the right to vote.
There are over 1.5 million 16 and 17 year olds in the UK denied the vote. We are a campaign made up of young people, organisations and network of politicians across the UK.
We’re ready for Votes at 16 because it will:
- engage 16 and 17 year olds at the ballot who hold many responsibilities in our society
- empower 16 and 17 year olds, through a democratic right, to influence decisions that will define their future
- inspire young people to get involved in our democracy.
Short film highlighting some facts and debate
about lowering the voting age to 16.
Votes at 16 will engage 16 and 17 year olds, who hold many responsibilities in our society, to influence key decisions that affect their lives and ensure youth issues are represented.
We believe it is impossible to justify the automatic and blanket exclusion of 16 and 17 year olds from the right to vote because, at 16, the law allows a person to:
- give full consent to medical treatment
- leave school and enter work or training
- pay income tax and National Insurance
- obtain tax credits and welfare benefits in their own right
- consent to sexual relationships
- get married or enter a civil partnership
- change their name by deed poll
- become a director of a company
- join the armed forces
- become a member of a trade union or a co-operative society.
Not only are 16 and 17 year olds by law able to make complex decisions and take on wide ranging responsibilities, they are also showing in practice that they want to make a positive difference. Locking them out is patronising: it relies on out-dated views about young people’s capacities.
Votes at 16 will empower 16 and 17 year olds, through a democratic right, to influence decisions that will define their future.
There are over 1.5 million 16 and 17 year olds in the UK. These young people are knowledgeable and passionate about the world in which they live, and are as capable of engaging in the democratic system as any other citizen.
Participation in free elections is a fundamental human right (protected in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UK’s Human Rights Act). Because of these laws the reasons for excluding people from the vote have to be fair and balanced.
16 and 17 year olds would be able to raise issues that are persistently affecting young people in their area and vote on whether the introduction of a policy would improve their area for the better.
Other countries have given their young people the right to vote. Currently you can vote at 16 if you:
- Live on the Isle of Man, Jersey or Guernsey
- Live in Austria
- Live in Nicaragua, Brazil or Ecuador
- Live in Germany and are voting in Länder or state elections
- Live in Hungary and meet certain criteria, for example if you are married before reaching the age of 18 you have full adult legal rights and can therefore vote
- Live in Slovenia and are employed
- Live in Norway and are part of the 20 selected municipalities that the government has given 16-year-olds the right to vote in the September 2011 local elections, as part of a greater effort to get young people interested in politics.
- Live in Argentine, voting is obligatory for people aged 18 to 70, but will be optional for those aged 16 and 17.
- Live in Scotland and will be voting in the 2014 Independence Referendum.
16 and 17 year olds today are ready to engage and participate in our democracy, having learnt the principles in compulsory citizenship education. Through being a local youth councillor, a member of a youth parliament or their student union, they are already engaging in significant numbers. The next step is Votes at 16 – a move that would empower young people to better engage in society and influence decisions that will define their future.
- citizenship education has been a compulsory part of the national curriculum in secondary schools since 2002.
- 85% of secondary schools have school councils.
- about 20,000 young people are active in local youth councils, often working in close collaboration with local councils and public services.
- there are 600 elected MYPs (Members of Youth Parliament) in the UK, each serving for 12 months and voted in by their peers. Established in 2000, the UK Youth Parliament has held debates in Parliament since 2008.
Making young people wait is squandering their energy and passion. It is leaving it to chance whether MPs take into account the interests and perspectives of their younger constituencies. Democracy suffers.
When the Electoral Commission last consulted the public about extending the right to vote to 16 and 17 year olds, 72% were in support. What’s stopping Parliament ending this injustice?
We’re stronger when we stand together. Lend your voice and sign up today!