The Votes at 16 Coalition has called for Government action on voting age reform. This was in response to a Government-backed Youth Citizenship Commission report on lowering the voting age.
The Youth Citizenship Commission was announced by the Prime Minister Gordon Brown in July 2007 to “lead a consultation with young people on whether the voting age should be lowered to 16”. The Commission was a group of young people, academics, teachers and people from media, sport, business, community and union organisations who were tasked with looking at what citizenship means to young people, examining ways to help young people take more of an active role in their communities, and asking young people and other sectors of the community for their opinions on lowering the voting age to 16.
In May 2009 the Commission released the outcome of its consultation, finding that 66% of respondents backed lowering the voting age to 16. However, the Commission recommended that the UK government could consider whether the right to decide the voting age for elections to the devolved legislatures and in relevant local government elections should be one for devolved governments.
However, the governing political parties in Wales and Scotland have already said that they would lower the voting age to 16 for the Welsh Assembly and Scottish Parliament elections. The Votes at 16 Coalition thinks that the Government just needs to back lowering the voting age to 16 in all UK public elections. The forthcoming Constitutional Renewal Bill will be the ideal opportunity for the Government to introduce voting age reform.
A Votes at Coalition spokesperson said: “Devolving responsibility for the voting age is an unnecessary delay in achieving real change. Our message to Gordon Brown is clear, don’t dither with devolution; just do it!”
“We believe that the voting age should be reduced to 16 in all UK public elections. The past few months has eroded public trust in politics, especially amongst young people. The Commission’s evidence shows that young people overwhelming back Votes at 16. If we want to re-engage young people with political life we need to demonstrate that their views matter at the heart of democracy – the ballot box”.
“The exclusion of 16 and 17 year olds from the right to vote cannot be justified. They can leave home, get a job, pay taxes, get married and join the army. Yet, they cannot vote for the Government that sets taxes or sends them to war.”