I support lowering the voting age to 16 as I believe this will energise and engage young people and ensure their voices are heard. I also believe votes at 16 would strengthen our democracy and open it up to a new generation – as was quite clearly borne out in the Scottish Independence Referendum, where more than 100,000 16 and 17-year-olds registered to vote and 75 per cent of those registered voted.
At 16 people are eligible to pay tax, get married, or even join the army. I therefore believe that 16 and 17-year-olds deserve a vote and at the 2017 General Election I stood on a manifesto which committed to reducing the voting age to 16. I also believe that extending the franchise should be accompanied by improved citizenship education because this is an important way to ensure young people are engaged and informed in the political process.
The lowering of the voting age for Scottish parliamentary and local elections and the plans to do so for Wales is a welcome development. However, I am disappointed that the current UK Government continues to oppose votes at 16 for parliamentary elections and other elections in England.
There are a number of Private Members’ Bills currently before Parliament which seek to reduce the voting to 16 in parliamentary and other elections. The representation of the People (Young People’s Enfranchisement and Education) Bill sponsored by Jim McMahon MP and a similar bill by Peter Kyle MP which is scheduled to have its second reading debate in the House of Commons on May 11, 2018.
I will follow the progress of such bills and continue to support Votes at 16.