To lower or not to lower the voting age
By Vincenzo Capozzoli in General
Published: Tuesday, 28 April 09 - 10:52 PM (GMT)
Last Updated: Wednesday, 29 April 09 - 08:11 PM (GMT)
At present in the UK for General, local and European elections, as well as referenda, you must be 18 to vote. There have been a number of voices in society that suggests that the voting age should be lowered to 16. Below I will try to outline some of the main pros and cons of adopting such a proposal.
Voting is a right young people are entitled to
As voting is the central way in which citizens express their judgement and support of government policy, it is only fair that those who are affected by major government decisions are given the opportunity to express their opinions via the ballot box. 16 and 17 year olds can get married, raise children and pay tax.
Giving young people the vote would make them more engaged in society#
Opening up voting to 16 and 17 year olds would ensure that they get the opportunity to vote from a younger age and it is more likely to be seen as an essential element of the transition to adulthood. 18 year olds are often more transient – they are more likely to be leaving home, working full time or starting university. At this busy time of life voting can all too easily drop down the list of priorities.
The exclusion of 16 and 17 year olds from elections is fuelling the disengagement of 18-24 year olds. The longer young people are denied involvement in the formal democratic process, the less chance there is of engaging them ever. There is no evidence to suggest that once 18, young people are likely to become more engaged.
If they are old enough to die for their country they are old enough to vote
If it’s ok for governments to send young people at 16 17 into war zones then there is no moral argument for not allowing them the opportunity to elect the government which may send them to potentially hazardous areas of the globe.
Young people are too immature
Young people haven’t developed critical thinking faculties which allow them to choose between parties. Young people are highly impressionable and are likely to be swayed by the last opinion they heard – especially if this was aired by someone attractive.
Lowering the voting age would lead to a lower turnout in elections
Larger voting population made up of younger voters, who are less likely to vote, would reduce the overall turnout. Turnout is already very low and the lower it gets the more people opt-out of the political process.
Many teenagers have many more important things to think about such as schoolwork and their futures. Exams are already a huge stress for 16-18 year olds as they determine what the rest of their life will entail. Time to research the issues that determine which party would be a better choice, is something that many teenagers simply dont have.
It makes little difference on its own
The Electoral Reform Society has the objectives of reducing the spread of political apathy: the ERS has tried to reach this goal by acting on the general principle that it is voting accessibility which is key.
The thought that giving 16-17 year olds the vote will increase their chances of political engagement is false. Those with the interest will vote, those who do not, won’t. In order to make lifelong political engagement more likely, a larger overhaul of the way the political system operates needs to be thought out. Larger and more ambitious changes such as Electoral Reform, as well as the development of more opportunities for popular political discourse and feedback need to be considered.
I hope the above provides a good overview of the general argument, like most things the arguments must be weighed up to achieve a final conclusion.
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