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Thursday, 4 July, 2002, 09:09 GMT 10:09 UK
Voting at 16 under review
Teenagers
Some believe voting at 16 would reduce political apathy
Calls for the voting age to be lowered to 16 are to be considered by the Electoral Commission.


Lowering the voting age will help to re-engage young people with democracy and ensure that their voice is heard

Alex Folkes
Votes @ 16
Sam Younger, chair of the organisation, confirmed the move at the launch of a report on young people and politics on Wednesday.

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.

Decision

There were a number of calls from young people in the audience at the conference in a London cinema for the voting age to be lowered.

Asked how ministers would react if the Electoral Commission favoured reducing the voting age, Mr Denham said: "We will have to consider and take a decision in government, because that is what governments do."

Lord Chancellor's Department Minister, Baroness Scotland accepted that it was vital to get young people engaged in politics early.

But she added: "Whether 16 is the right age (for voting) I don't know.

"Some young people I have spoken to think it should be 21."

Pledge

The Commission on Local Government Electoral Arrangements in Wales - an independent review set up by the Welsh Cabinet - this week supported the lowering of the voting age to 16.

Charles Kennedy
Mr Kennedy backs lowering the voting age
The call is also supported by the Liberal Democrats, with spokesman Matthew Green winning applause at the conference as he underlined leader Charles Kennedy's pledge to push for a change.

Alex Folkes, Votes @ 16 campaign manager at the Electoral Reform Society, said: "We are confident that an independent review will conclude that Votes @ 16 is the right way forward.

"Lowering the voting age will help to re-engage young people with democracy and ensure that their voice is heard."

He said the introduction of citizenship education in schools from the age of five to 16 meant the proposal made sense as a piece of "joined-up policy".

Disaffection

Earlier this year Mr Kennedy backed reducing the voting age amid concerns about voter apathy.

He believes that disaffection with politics among the voting public requires radical measures.

Mr Kennedy argued at the time: "You're allowed to marry when you're 16. You can join the army. And you can pay tax. Why shouldn't you be able to vote too?"

Mr Kennedy believes that more people would become engaged in the political process if they were allowed to vote far younger.

He added that the move would make politicians pay "far more attention" to the opinions of people in their late teens.


Talking PointTALKING POINT
Voting at 16
Should the UK's voting age be lowered?
See also:

04 Jul 02 | UK Politics
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08 Aug 01 | UK Politics
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28 Feb 02 | UK Politics
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