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Last Updated: Monday, 14 July, 2003, 10:33 GMT 11:33 UK
Should 16-year-olds get vote?
Ballot box
You can get married at 16
Allowing 16-year-olds to vote is being considered in a shake up of the electoral system.

Concern over falling turnouts has prompted the Electoral Commission, which advises the government on how elections can be modernised, to consider reducing the voting age from 18.

At present a 16-year-old can get married and join the army, but he or she cannot vote in elections and has to wait until reaching the aged of 21 to stand as a candidate.

The key question for this review is whether young people under 18 should be given that right to vote or be able to stand as a candidate before they are 21
Glyn Mathias
Electoral Commissioner

Now, in its consultation document: "Should electoral life begin at 16, 18 or 21?", the commission is considering cutting the age at which people can take part in elections, both as voters and candidates.

At the General Election in 2001, only 39% of 18-24 year olds bothered to vote, according to the pollsters MORI.

'Democratic right'

This coincided with a survey by the British Household Panel 2001-02 which suggested that nearly 30% of 15-17 year olds said they were either very interested or fairly interested in politics - higher than the equivalent figure for 18-20 year olds.

Glyn Mathias, the electoral commissioner, said: "The right to vote is one of the most important you can have in a democratic country.

HAVE YOUR SAY
This will be a boost for the electoral process
Michael Pala, UK

"The key question for this review is whether young people under 18 should be given that right to vote or be able to stand as a candidate before they are 21."

Mr Mathias said the commission was starting the review with "a completely open mind" and was hoping to hear as many opinions as possible, particularly from young people.

Party conferences

People who are not normally interested in politics are also being urged to get involved before the consultation ends on 31 October.

The Electoral Commission will be seeking views from people attending the party political conferences, the annual sitting of the UK Youth Parliament and youth interest groups.

The review comes after the commission found that just 16% of voters aged under 25 voted in May's elections to the Welsh assembly.

Not only did under-25s fail to vote in significant numbers, but only 21% of the next age group, 25-to-34 year olds, exercised their democratic rights.




SEE ALSO:
Young people 'too busy' to vote
08 Jul 03  |  Wales
Why I didn't use my vote
08 Jul 03  |  Wales
Voters 'keen on e-election'
29 Apr 03  |  Politics


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