Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Votes at 16 will inspire young people

Those of you that have followed my work in Parliament since I was elected will know that I have been a strong supporter of lowering the voting age to 16. I have given my full backing to the Votes at 16 campaign and you can learn more about the campaign on their new website here.

The Votes at 16 campaign says that there are over 1.5 million 16 and 17 year olds in the UK denied the vote. They are a campaign made up of young people, organisations and network of politicians across the UK.

Votes at 16 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.
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.
But they are denied the right to vote.

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.

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.

When the Electoral Commission last consulted the public about extending the right to vote to 16 and 17 year olds, 72% were in support.

You can learn more about the reasons behind the campaign and pledge your support here.