Our young people should be allowed to vote at 16

30 Jan 2024
Voting at 16

In recent years, there has been a growing global conversation around the idea of lowering the voting age to 16, and several countries have successfully implemented this change. The United Kingdom, with its rich democratic history (well, until this Tory government), should seriously consider following suit. 

It is worth remembering that the UK led the way in 1969 when we reduced the lower voting age from 21 to 18. Similarly, Scotland made headlines in 2015 by allowing 16 and 17-year-olds to vote in the independence referendum. The decision was praised for acknowledging that young people can contribute meaningfully to the democratic process. Research shows that this engagement has lasting effects, with many young voters continuing to participate in subsequent elections.

Austria lowered its voting age to 16 in 2007 - the only European country so far to do so - and since then, young people have actively participated in elections, bringing fresh perspectives to the political landscape. The move has proven successful in fostering a sense of civic duty among teenagers, leading to increased voter turnout and a more inclusive political environment. In Germany, the current governing coalition has committed to introducing a lower voting age of 16 before the next election.

Critics may argue that 16-year-olds lack the maturity to make informed decisions, but evidence suggests otherwise. Studies indicate that young people are capable of understanding complex political issues and forming informed opinions. Lowering the voting age recognises their ability to contribute to the democratic process and ensures that policies reflect their concerns and aspirations.

Furthermore, extending voting rights to 16-year-olds promotes lifelong civic engagement. By allowing young people to participate in the democratic process early on, we instil a sense of responsibility and encourage active citizenship. This approach is crucial in shaping a society where everyone's voice is heard, fostering a more inclusive and representative democracy.

The success stories of countries like Austria and Scotland demonstrate the positive impact of lowering the voting age. The UK has an opportunity to empower its youth, cultivate informed citizens, and strengthen its democratic foundation by embracing this progressive change.

Fun fact: Brazil lowered the voting age for its citizens in 1988!

Let’s allow 16 and 17 year olds to vote in the UK.