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Friday, 5 July, 2002, 21:50 GMT 22:50 UK
Should 16-year-olds be allowed to vote?
Calls for the voting age to be lowered to 16 are to be considered by the Electoral Commission.

And John Denham, the home office minister with responsibility for young people, said any recommendation to cut the voting age from 18 would be considered.

The move comes as a government report shows that many 14 to 20-year-olds believe MPs to be out-of-touch.

The report also found that 59% of young people have little interest in politics and that only 31% felt there is a duty to vote.

Should the voting age be lowered? Will it help young people to engage in politics?

This debate is now closed. See below for a selection of your comments.

Quite daft. Far more sensible is to require five years employment before you qualify to vote.
James, England

As most of the political dialogue in this county is conducted at the level of a child and the most popular newspapers cover politics at the most infantile level we may as well go for the lowest common denominator. It can hardly lower the standards of debate.
Tim Binnington, UK

What is more important is for young people's views to be represented in Parliament.

Mark, Germany
What is more important is for young people's views to be represented in Parliament. This doesn't necessarily mean having more young people in Parliament or having younger people voting for those who get into Parliament. Young people want to see MP's fighting for their cause far more often than they have been.
Mark, Germany (British Citizen)

Absolutely not! Put the voting age up to 25 rather than reduce it. If you've seen no life and never worked or supported yourself you should not be a part of the voting process. Also it is very disturbing the way the right-wing press are feeding the so-easily-influenced young today on stupid celebrity stories and are deliberately avoiding proper news and reporting. In a few years time there will be no real news and no politics as a consequence of this. What will we be voting for, boy bands or DJs?
Andrew M, UK

I personally think that the age limit should remain the same. Whilst some young people mature earlier and have developed definitive opinions below this age, one thing I have learnt by my middle age is that our opinions and thoughts continue to develop throughout our life and that "maturity" is actually difficult to define. I think 18 is the right age, an age of independence for many, going to university, starting work etc and an age where people start to take responsibility for themselves and their future. Besides teenagers have enough to worry about!
Terry Emerson, London, UK

As a teacher who deals with 16 year olds daily, I have one thing to say about giving them the vote. NO! NO! NO! It is rare enough to find an 18 year old with sufficient understanding of the realities of life without planning to give people even younger the right to take part in decision making.
Philip, England

I think we have a lot to learn from young people - they have fresh, uncynical ideas!

16 year olds are experienced at making important life decisions (e.g. GCSEs, further education etc). They are also considered by the law to be responsible enough to reproduce and raise children, not to mention get married. To say that because 16 year olds have no experience of taxation or pensions is an unfair reason to deny them the right to vote - how many of us have experience of how to run the NHS, yet we vote in the government that does. I think we have a lot to learn from young people - they have fresh, uncynical ideas!

Do you really think I trust a group of people who vote for Will Young? About as much as I trust this government. Political voting is slightly more important than a Pop 'idol' vote! Ask yourself this, when your walking along your local high street, how many 16 year olds look and act sensible enough to vote?
Craig, Scotland

Of course it is right to allow 16 and 17 year olds to vote. They pay taxes, they can leave school, get married, join the armed forces and claim benefits. Why should they not be able to help choose the people who set policy on these matters. The argument that older people know what is best for young people and will vote accordingly was used by men to deny women the vote in the 1900's. It is as wrong now as it was then.
Alex, UK

It smacks of a desperate attempt to work around voter apathy

Mark, England
No. A mechanism for improved involvement of 16 year olds in politics is needed, better education, increasing understanding and interest of the British political system would be a starting point. Then maybe we could trust 16 year olds with a vote. Only a minority of 16 year olds earn sufficient amounts for any major Tax decision by the government to affect them, mainly those who join the services. Opening the vote to those under 18 would encourage too much variation in voter's priorities, and consequently even more dubious and irrelevant promises from politicians. It smacks of a desperate attempt to work around voter apathy, instead of dealing with the reasons for voter apathy, opening the vote to a whole new group of citizens who would of course jump at the opportunity until the novelty wears off.
Mark, England

I believe that 16 year olds should be allowed to vote. But I think, and this is regardless of age, no one should be allowed to vote until they can prove they have read the manifestos of the candidates and therefore can make an informed decision. Otherwise there seems to be no sense in voting at all. To deny the vote to people who can legally raise families and work seems to hark back to a bygone age.
Melanie, UK

I work with young people (15/16) as an individual mentor and so get to know them all quite well. They may lack self-confidence and appear silly when in a group, but they all show an excellent knowledge of the outside world and the issues that confront us all. I would have no hesitation giving them the vote, - and I think that they would be much likely to vote than their elders. All of them have jobs even if its on a Saturday or a newspaper round, and not quite the 'greenhorns' some people think.
Anthony (age 53), Reading, UK

It is unjust that 16 year olds must pay tax when they work, but cannot vote

Mark Sydenham, Scotland
It is unjust that 16 year olds must pay tax when they work, but cannot vote, that they must pay National Insurance contributions, but cannot claim any unemployment or housing benefits. If the government want to continue denying 16 year olds representation, then they should iron out all the other inconsistencies and give them back the rights the Conservatives took away. 16 year olds cannot even claim the same minimum wage as over 18 year olds for doing the same work!
Mark Sydenham, Scotland

The right to vote should depend on knowledge of the issues. My preference is for regular tests on the British constitution, economics etc. as a way of gaining eligibility as a voter. I am sure some 16 year olds are as politically mature as adults so it seems simply ageist to exclude them. If it makes sense to have a lower age limit, should we also have an upper age limit?
Paul, England

What is the point when those already entitled to vote usually don't? Young people of 16 don't pay mortgages and rarely have children at school so why should they have a say in how these things are run? If the government is out of touch with young people giving the young people the vote won't help. Pensioners are a huge group of voters but do the government listen to them? Quite.
Wendy, U.K.

It should be raised to 21.

Paul J-W, England
Absolutely not, in my mind it should be raised to 21. The thought that a 16 year old has enough life experience to make a valuable contribution to the way this country is run is ludicrous.
Paul J-W, England, UK

Just like 18 year olds, 16 year olds should have the right to not vote.
Derek, UK

The assertion that young people are not interested in politics because they do not vote is incorrect. Does this presuppose that at 18, young persons become interested in politics, of course not. There is no desire for the vote amongst this group because they (we) have grown up in an era of consensus politics, created the media and a two-party system which results in squabbling over the centre ground. The fact that the average 16 year old will (hopefully) vote for Jade on Friday's Big Brother eviction night instead of in the poll booths may not spotlight a healthy democracy, but is in fact a direct consequence of it.
Al M, England

The government (not to mention the electorate in general) allows 16 yr olds to go to war with the Armed Forces, it allows then to put money into the treasury (through smoking) so why not let them vote? To those who say that they don't want a pop idol voted in, grow up, the 16 to 18 vote alone wouldn't be enough to vote someone in by itself.
Ollie_J, UK

Labour are keen on this because young people tend to be more left wing

Stuart, UK
Of course Labour will be keen on this because young people tend to be more left wing. Since the government's main role is dishing out tax revenue, only those who pay taxes should be permitted to vote.
Stuart, UK

How can a 16 year old be able to relate to proposed changes in income tax when they're not earning, to changes in pension schemes when they don't have one, to changes in child benefits when it's their parents that receive it not them? You'll just end up with gimmicky manifests containing ideas like reducing VAT on CD's and computer games. Voting is a serious issue and shouldn't be available to an age group where the majority have not yet sufficiently matured to be able to competently make such a key decision.
Alex Banks, UK

So Alex Banks thinks that most 16 year-olds are not mature enough to make decisions on the big issues? I think not! We ARE the future, so don't you think we should have a say in how that future is prepared for us? As for the maturity issue, in response to Mr Banks' comments I asked twenty people around my college, all aged between 16 and 19, about whether they were interested in voting. The result was emphatically in the affirmative, and (oddly enough) when questioned about the issues they would champion, there were really strange answers like 'reduction of taxes', 'protection of the environment', 'modifiications of the NHS', and even 'more emphasis on good education'.
Ross McDonald, England

I've never heard of anything so stupid, do we really want some pop idol being voted in. Also having only left school do they have a realistic view of the world or is it a way for the government to grab votes by giving incentives to the youth vote. After saying all that, I don't think it would make a difference because by the time you reach 25 you realise that the government does what it wants, lies and cheats, and bows down to people who nag them most; then they charge you a load of tax to cover up their incompetence.
Liz, UK

Most younger people are a lot more grown-up than the politicians running Britain anyway

Duncan Thorp, Scotland
Yes. Younger people have little say in how this country is run already, so anything that increases political activity should be welcomed. We have this crazy situation where 16 year olds can kill themselves through smoking, get married or risk STD's through legal sex but can't vote on their own lives. Most younger people are a lot more grown-up than the politicians running Britain anyway.
Duncan Thorp, Scotland

Yes, 16 year olds should have the right to vote. Most people of this age either work or pay tax of some sort and as such should have their right to vote. The clarion call of the American revolution was 'no taxation without representation'. I think the UK's young citizens should adopt the same move. The current system, whereby 16 year olds can join the armed forces, work in full time employment and pay tax, but have no entitlement to vote is completely unjust. Their views are no less informed than most other people's. But they must beware, whatever way they vote, it's the government that always seem to get in.
Mick Deal, UK

See also:

04 Jul 02 | UK Politics
04 Jul 02 | UK Politics
05 Feb 02 | UK Politics
17 Jul 01 | UK Politics
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