Voting at 16

Last week, we interviewed a teacher at our school, Tonbridge Grammar School, about the General Election, women in politics and voting at 16. The latter is a heavily debated issue, because young people, especially under the age of 18, are gaining more and more responsibility in our society. We sent out a survey to 57 students in our school, and these are the results we collected:

This shows that many people under the age of 16 actually don’t feel that they require the right to vote. But why is this? Why would teenagers deny themselves their own freedoms? We went on to ask those who answered ‘no’, to find our why they answered our poll in this way.

One girl said “I think that they are not mature enough because they do not understand yet the full amount of responsibility that they hold to be able to vote. I also think that the voting age should be at least 20/22 because I think that they are then beginning to understand how these things work. If 16 year olds were allowed to vote, I think that some political groups would have to change their outlook on how they are presenting their policies and maybe even change them to appeal to younger groups. If say a person that wanted to rise to a place of power in the country e.g. the Prime Minister, then they would only have to appeal to the 16 year olds of the country to be in power and possibly cause chaos as 16 year olds might not weigh up all the options before voting.”

Another said “I don't see why 18 year olds are any more responsible than 16 year olds. However I think the most important thing is to get more young people interested in politics because so many of them don't vote.” She suggested incentivising young people to vote, particularly recommending awarding “free tickets to Tom Hiddleston dance shows”.

Despite this, Connor Dwyer, 15, Member of the United Kingdom Youth Parliament for Preston speaking to The Guardian said: “Politics is not just for a select few, it is for and it affects every one of us, and there are particular times in our lives when the decisions made by our elected officials matter most significantly to us. I would argue that the ages of 16 and 17 years old are the first of these times. The transition into further education, work or an apprenticeship; the eligibility to pay tax, join the armed forces, get married, have a child and gamble are just a few of the responsibilities that lay heavy on the shoulders of young people that age. At this age you can make life-changing decisions and contribute greatly to society, yet you aren’t eligible to just place their vote in the ballot box."

“The arguments against votes for 16-year-olds are almost always focused around uncertainties. People are uncertain that we are mature enough, people are uncertain if we will use the vote. The only arguments with some essence of certainty come from the supporters, because we know that young people want to be involved in politics and democracy in general, and that simply can’t be the case at the moment. Lowering the voting age ensures that we are heard and have some influence on decision makers.”

So what do you think? Should 16 years olds be able to vote in the General Election? Since you are legally allowed to have a child at the age of 16, as well as work and pay tax, is it fair that you are not legally able to take part in determining who runs the country you (and, in some cases, your child) live in? If you pay tax to the government, why are you not able to have a say in their decisions?