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7 June 2016, 17:50
Two major votes in 2016 and still no votes for 16 & 17-year-olds.
On the 23rd June, the UK will be voting in a referendum to decide whether they should remain or leave the European Union. There is a lot of uncertainty about the consequences of a 'leave' vote, but it's generally accepted that it would be a seismic change in British politics and relationships with the rest of Europe.
Despite the fact that teenagers will definitely be affected by the outcome people under the age of 18 are not be allowed to vote in the referendum. For those of you who don’t know, you have to be 18 to vote in elections in the UK (like America, Canada and Australia).
In 2014, during the Scottish Independence vote, the Scottish Government decided to lower the voting age to 16, as there was broad acknowledgement that lowering the age would encourage political engagement among younger voters.
And guess what? It was a massive success. Over 75% of 16-17s voted in the independence referendum, as opposed to 54% of 18-24s. In fact, it was such a success they are now allowed to vote in Scottish Parliament elections. God bless Scotland.
So the idea gained popularity south of the border in England, Wales and across the sea in Northern Ireland. The House of Lords saw what happened in Scotland and had an epiphany: allowing younger people to vote in the whole of the UK will get them more interested in politics (duh!). David Cameron had other ideas.
Though Cameron wants the UK to remain in the EU, and opinion polls suggest younger people are much more likely to want to remain too, he blocked the bill from passing. Why? Well there are a couple of reasons. Firstly, adding thousands of new names to the electoral roll would take months and he didn't want to delay the referendum any further (in the hope the leave campaign won't have enough time to drive home their message). He also claimed, given the fact that younger voters favour remaining in the EU, he didn't want to be accused of trying to fix the result by flooding the electoral roll with pro-EU voters.
Smell BS? Well that's because Cameron also knows that younger voters are more likely to favour his party's main rival, the Labour Party, so allowing the lowering of the voting age might not be good for his Conservative party in the long run. Yes, politics is awful sometimes.
And that's why we need more teenagers voting in elections and referendums the world over. To prove our point, we made a list of 6 very f*cking good reasons why 16- & 17-year-olds should be allowed to vote.
The biggest myth of them all is that young people won't bother voting if you give them the vote. During the Scottish referendum, 16-17s had a higher turn out than 18-24s. Moral of the story: don't trust old people when they talk about young people and politics.
Evidence suggests voting from a younger age helps the habit stick i.e. they will continue to vote in future elections. Habits can be a good thing, it would seem. Don't start smoking though. That's still bad.
Whether it's leaving the EU, or choosing your future President, these are BIG decisions that directly affect you. If you're not able to vote it's a lot easier for politicians to ignore you, as they have no real reason to keep you happy.
The counter argument is usually that 16-years-olds aren’t mature enough to engage or care about politics. Yet, in the UK, you can marry and join the army at 16. This is complete bullsh*t and everyone knows it. Let's be real for a moment: a lot of adults are complete idiots and they're still allowed to vote. The idea that 16/17-year-olds aren't mature enough is not only patronising but also not based in facts. Considering Scotland and other countries like Norway and Austria with 16-17s voting haven't descended into chaos and civil unrest, we think it's safe to assume trusting younger voters isn't going to be as disastrous as opponents suggest.
You might remember the tale of the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA), which for those who don’t know, was £30 per week which provided financial support to college students, but was cut in 2010. Housing benefits for anyone under the age 21 has also been cut, and university fees were tripled. Combine this with not being able to vote, is it any wonder young people are deeply suspicious of politics?
Both Bernie Sanders in the US, and Jeremy Corbyn in the UK, have demonstrated that if politicians speak directly to younger voters about policies that will help and support them, they will in return begin to engage more with mainstream politics.