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Last Updated: Monday, 19 April, 2004, 18:39 GMT 19:39 UK
Voting age 'should stay the same'
Harry Enfield's 'Tory Boy' invention
MPs say the candidacy age should be lowered, according to a survey
Campaigners who want 16-year-olds to be able to vote have suffered a blow from the elections watchdog which says the voting age should stay at 18.

But the Electoral Commission has recommended reducing the age limit for prospective MPs from 21 to 18.

And in five to seven years, the independent body said, the voting age should be reviewed again.

Ministers should launch a review of the age limits for a range of rights and responsibilities, the report suggested.

Low turnout

Commission chairman Sam Younger said that even among young people there was not a clear majority in favour of lowering the voting age to 16.

"The evidence from the review suggests that while many young people under-18 would feel ready to vote, there are just as many who feel that 16 is too young," he said.

Parents will simply be provided with an additional vote
ds, Newcastle

The review was prompted by the 39% turnout among 18 to 21-year-olds at the 2001 general election - the lowest of any age group.

Lowering the voting age could reduce the overall turnout because of young people's disengagement with the political process, Mr Younger said.

Young people were more interested in ensuring MPs listened and understood their concerns, he said.

Campaigners who want change say it is wrong that 16-year-olds can marry, join the armed forces and pay taxes but cannot vote.

'Almost adults'

Mr Younger said different rights - such as driving licences and jury service - were given at different ages.

But the commission says the voting age question could be revisited and there is no reason why the age for election candidates should not be harmonised with the voting age.

Young people in London had a mixed reaction to the plans.

College student Abiola Ajibola, 16, told News Online: "They should drop the age.

"We are almost adults and we're not little kids."

Weakening opposition

But Jamie Cox, 19, who works in media production, said: "Even at 18 people don't know enough about politics to vote.

"At 16 people are still under the influence of their parents and it wouldn't be an educated vote."

Constitutional Affairs Minister Chris Leslie said the government would give the recommendations "due consideration".

Tony Blair has hinted his opposition to lowering the voting age might be weakening, Schools Minister David Miliband has publicly backed the move.

Alex Folkes, from the Votes At 16 campaign group, condemned the report as the "political establishment" telling young people that their votes did not count.

'Lost opportunity'

Liberal Democrat spokesman Sarah Teather said she was delighted teenagers would be able to stand for Parliament but called the voting age findings "a lost opportunity".

The Conservatives say lowering the limit would not encourage young people to vote but back moves to standardise the candidacy age.

The report comes after a poll suggested MPs agree the age limit for standing for Parliament should be reduced but think the voting age should stay the same.

The BBC's James Landale
"Parliament's youngest MP is 29"

Should 16-year-olds get vote?
14 Jul 03  |  Politics
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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