In England, the current voting age 18. Despite the fact that in the recent Scottish referendum, where the voting age was lowered to 16, 75% of 16 and 17 year olds turned out to vote, compared to 72% of 25-34 year olds. The current Tory government still deems 16 and 17 year olds to be children that are consumed by video games and rap music.
In England at 16 years old you take your GCSE’s (the qualifications that will ‘make or break’ your life) you pick out your career by going to college or sixth form, but you can’t have a say in who is running the country, or even on your local MP.Subjects like Politics and Sociology are being taught in high schools, colleges and sixth forms across the country, however young people are still deemed to not care about what political party is in power.
At 16, you can join the armed forces, work in remote and potentially life threatening environments abroad to defend your country, but you don’t get a say in who runs it.
The Green party, the Labour party and the Liberal Democrats all support the vote at 16. Parties like the Conservatives, however, oppose it. A Conservative MP John Redwood, said that critics were trying to ‘hijack’ the debate by talking about reducing the voting age to distract from the ‘failing’ campaign to keep Britain in the EU. In a interview in which he told the Today programme, Redwood said “I did meetings in schools before the general election; no one who was 16 or 17 at those meetings was saying that they specifically wanted to have a vote in the EU issue because they weren’t really interested in the EU issue.”
I asked a group of students (ages ranging from 16-20) what their thoughts on the vote at 16 were, and whether or not they agreed with giving the vote to 16 and 17 year olds, they all said politics should be taught in schools. 17 year old student, Maddie, said that “If politics as a mandatory subject was brought into schools, then young people would have more of an understanding of it, and want to exercise their right to vote.”
But 20 year old student, Sarah, says giving the vote to 16 and 17 year olds overall is not a good idea, because “Young people are not educated enough about politics”.
Maybe Conservative MP’s like John Redwood should actually listen to young people, instead of treating them like it is 100 years ago where only upper class men got to vote. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that if you taught politics as a mandatory subject like Maths, or ICT, then you would create a generation of young adults interested in politics and interested in voting. If we can have mandatory lessons all throughout high school, on making a website in ICT, then why can’t we have lessons on something that will actually have a massive impact on our young people’s lives?
Let us know what you think, do you think you’re ready to vote at 16?