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Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 May, 2005, 21:37 GMT 22:37 UK
Should 16-year-olds get the vote?
Emily Brant, Isobel Adams and Chris Simsek, 16, celebrate after collecting their GCSE results
Campaigners are trying to secure a vote for 16 and 17-year-olds in the next general election believing that it would "invigorate" the youth vote.

A coalition that includes representatives from the National Union of Students have demanded a pre-election pledge from the three main parties but so far only the Liberal Democrats have agreed to lower the voting age to 16 if they win.

The group said that if people at 16 were able to leave home, get a full-time job, pay taxes, raise children and join the armed forces, they should also be able to vote.

Should 16-year-olds get to vote? Or are they too immature? Will this address voter apathy in young people? Are you 16 or 17 and would like to vote?

This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments.

The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we received:

This topic was suggested by Harry Lee, London, England
Do you think 16 year-olds should be given the vote?

No, I'm 16 I love politics and I'd love to have my say, but I'm one of very few that I know. We talk about it but most haven't a clue what's going on in politics.
Liz, UK

I'm 13 years old and feel strongly about the up and coming General Election, yet I feel helpless as I cannot vote to make a difference. I believe that the voting age should be lowered to the age of 16.
Pavlos, Enfield, England

At 16 one is not knowledgeable enough to have an opinion on any subject
Asher Drapkin, Leeds
At 16 one is not knowledgeable enough to have an opinion on any subject - including politics.
Asher Drapkin, Leeds

I'm 15 and know a lot of 16 and 17 year olds. Although a few are mature enough to vote and are responsible enough to make such decisions, the overwhelming majority are simply too young, immature and irresponsible to know who to vote for.
Neil, Skye, Scotland

Far from lowering the voting age to what is essentially an immature and oft ill-informed core of wild opinion, perhaps we should, judging by the attitudinal stance of those even older in this yob-infested country, consider raising it to 25 linked to a "social awareness" quotient test.
David harrington, Bristol, UK

Yes, 16 yr olds should have the vote. I'm sure they would reach a better conclusion than some of their more mature counterparts who base their decision on a single issue of self interest.
James, Cornwall, UK

It's unthinkable that it should even be being discussed. Under 21 is the age of invincible, ignorant aggression. Heaven help us all if political influence were allowed to fall into the hands of today's youth-culture. Just look at the papers any day to see examples of youth irresponsibility. Votes for 16s - how stupid can we get?
Tom Perry, Wiltshire, UK

How many 16-year-olds actually want the vote? Maybe there should be a referendum.
Rachel, Milton Keynes

I think that 16 year olds should get the vote. I am 15 and I have a lot of opinions about the election and think that 16 is not too immature to vote as we are the future of the country so should be able to vote to decide what the future will be like living in this country.
Charlotte Morgan, Vale of Glamorgan

As a politics student at college, 16, and with in depth knowledge about each of the parties and their policies, I don't see why I cannot vote. The youth are affected by the government as much as anyone else within the borders of the UK.
Alistair, Shrewsbury, UK

I am 16 years old, interested in British politics to an extent and would greatly value a vote
Deborah, Belfast, Northern Ireland
I am 16 years old, interested in British politics to an extent and would greatly value a vote if the age were to be lowered. However, I think the majority of people my age either wouldn't vote at all or would abuse it, so no, I don't think it should be lowered. I'm sure many people my age could use their vote in a responsible way, but as there is no way to gauge this, everyone should be denied a vote until they are 18.
Deborah, Belfast, Northern Ireland

I suspect that the reason why 16 year olds may get the vote has little to do with their rights. But, more to do with the Governments fear of the growing power of the pensioner vote!
Terry, Eastbourne

If 16/17 year olds are old enough to pay taxes then they should also vote, so why can't they vote?
Thomas, Belfast

At 16, young people are too emotionally immature to make decisions concerning the general populace. Lowering the voting age will not achieve anything for democracy, instead resulting rather in a dumbing down of politics as parties woo the younger vote. The status quo should be maintained, and if a change is necessary, then it should be to rather increase the voting age to 21.
Richard Burden, Swindon, Wiltshire

When asking a 14 year old yesterday what party she would vote for if she had a vote, she said Labour. 'Why?' I asked. 'Because they have a nice flower' came the response. Scary.
Stuart, Swindon

Absolutely not. The age of majority should never have been lowered from 21.
Jane, Broxbourne

I do not believe that the voting privilege should be given based upon age but I think it is a right that should be afforded to every person in this country the day that they start paying tax. If your money is good enough for the government to take then your voice and opinion is good enough too.
Richard Scott, Iver, UK

Very few 16 year olds understand the realities and inequalities of life
Chris G, Cambridge, UK
At 16 like most my age I thought I was mature, I thought I understood the way the world works. I did not. Very few 16 year olds understand the realities and inequalities of life, have a full understanding of the economy or any idea about their own responsibilities. Sure you do become much more politically aware about this time in life but it is a good chance to really explore your thoughts and feelings on the issues before becoming a committed adult citizen.
Chris G, Cambridge, UK

No! Simple. Absolutely no way should the vote be lowered to 16. If anything it should be 21, as should drinking. Then we might have a more responsible attitude from our youth. The reason many don't vote now is because at 18 they feel their vote is wasted, probably because they don't understand the process properly.
Carl Johnson, Ripon, England

I see nothing wrong with giving 16 year olds voting rights, but it seems fairer to say that anyone who pays tax can vote.
Nathan Hobbs, Luton, UK

Of course children shouldn't get the vote. The age should be raised to 21. Our society now values youth above all else, including wisdom and experience. This is simply a fashion created by those loathsome baby-boomers and once they've all died out we might rediscover the centuries-old tradition of respect for the older, wiser of our communities.
Kevin, Cambridge

Somebody said that, "16 year olds lack the maturity and foresight to make long term choices". If this is the case, why are they legally allowed to marry and raise children? If the government expects kids leaving care to fend for themselves at 16, and if they want to take taxes off them, then they should give them a choice in how those taxes are spent.
Rebecca, Berks

If you pay income tax, and are therefore paying for the Government, it would seem reasonable that you should get a vote. On the other hand, if you are not deemed responsible enough to drink alcohol then perhaps you shouldn't be allowed to vote!
Andy G M Wood, UK (London)

Most people are ultimately selfish when it comes to voting
Daniel King, Kent
Most people are ultimately selfish when it comes to voting, adhering to how maybe one or two issues might affect them personally. Few people ever think of the benefit of the country as a whole. One look at the political demographics of Great Britain will show you this. So allowing 16 and 17 year old to vote probably wouldn't make a difference either way.
Daniel King, Bexley, Kent

Sixteen year-olds haven't developed the required amount of cynicism to see through the lies and deceit surrounding politics. After a year of watching their hard-earned cash being creamed off and wasted by governments, 17 year-olds have earned the right to vote.
Tony H, Middle Wallop, UK

I do not expect for one minute that giving 16 year olds the vote will decrease the current political apathy in the UK. That said, they must be allowed to participate in the democratic process without any further delay. To have the rights and responsibilities already mentioned and to then deny the same group the vote is a disgrace.
Ed Kelly, Manchester

We need to lower the voting age to 16 to balance the increase in elderly in the electorate.
Paul Carroll, Dundee

I'm 17 and if 16 year olds can get jobs, pay taxes and raise children then why can't they vote?
Emma, England

If you pay tax, you should be eligible for a vote
Carl White, Tutbury, Staffordshire
I say if you pay tax, you should be eligible for a vote regardless of your age, which includes 16yrs+.
Carl White, Tutbury, Staffordshire

There's a danger that some may vote for trendy policies like legalising drugs, however it's unlikely to make much difference given that there are more older people in the population than young. Most youngsters wouldn't vote anyway but maybe they should get the chance. In Scotland you can marry at 16 so why not vote? I actually probably knew more about politics as a teenager than I do now (although I always vote).
Gillian, Glasgow

Maturity of thought is not a useful criterion for voting. After all many (most?) of us over 18 don't really think through the issues. That's why the number of people who decide the result (floating voters) is frighteningly small. The real issue is how to engage people in the political process. The voting age is a minor issue. When it was lowered from 21 to 18 did it suddenly make us politically aware? I don't think so.
Alan Harrison, Sheffield, UK

Being able to vote should come from social responsibility
Barry, England
Absolutely not. Being able to vote should come from social responsibility. Why stop there? Maybe voting should only be available to those that pay or have paid taxes for a number of years. That would stop idealism.
Barry, England

There are plenty of people over the age of 18 whose maturity is questionable. There are also plenty of people under 18 who are mature and sensible enough to vote. The advantage of not voting until 18 is that you've had an extra two years of experience of adulthood before you get to vote, which is surely far more valuable that citizenship lessons!
Emma, Manchester, England

Yes! Age is one of the last bastions of legal prejudice. No doubt some young potential voters are irresponsible and ill-informed but I know as a certain fact that many of those over 18 are too!
Edwood, Malvern UK

If anything I believe the voting age should be raised. Younger people are more susceptible to vote for a party over one or two pledges. If 16 year olds were allowed to vote can you imagine what would happen if one party suggested lowering drinking or driving age to 16. They would suddenly have a very large backing. It would be detrimental to the politics of this country to allow that to happen.
George, UK

Perhaps people should start worrying about voter apathy in the 18 to 25 group
Rob H, UK
With less than a third of first time voters going to vote at 18, do they really think that 16 and 17 year olds are going to be any different? Perhaps people should start worrying about voter apathy in the 18 to 25 group rather than adding even more apathetic youth to the list of non-voters.
Rob H, UK

The government seems happy enough to take tax from these youngsters if they choose to work after leaving school so why not let them vote? Most 16 and 17 year olds are mature enough to make an informed decision on the parties' manifestos and I believe the only reason politicians won't give them the vote is due to the fact they are scared to embrace the ideas of the young people of this county.
Dean, Manchester

Look at the teenagers hanging around outside you local convenience store: many of them would be able to vote. Scary, isn't it? But would their choices be any worse than the "I want excellent public services but I also want lower taxes" self-interest expressed by so many older voters?
Peter Barber, Glasgow, Scotland

Until we adopt a fair and democratic voting system, it doesn't really matter who votes.
Ian, UK

Give them the opportunity it was not so long ago the voting age was 21
Abdi, Ealing, UK
Being 17 1/2 years old when the election was held in 1997, I was upset that I could not vote. I was a responsible mature human being who enjoyed politics. It is true some 16 year olds may not bother to vote but the same is true of 30 year olds should we stop all of them from voting. Give them the opportunity it was not so long ago the voting age was 21. We are all stakeholders in this society.
Abdi, Ealing

I can't see that giving people the vote earlier will be the answer to apathy in the country. Without trying to be condescending, most 16 years olds will not take the time to research who they wish to vote for, rather than vote with their parents or favourite celebrity... this will not lead to them feeling involved in democracy and could lead to further dissatisfaction with the process later on.
Martin, Sheffield, UK

Definitely not! As an 18 year old, I know enough people my age who will be voting for parties without knowing what they stand for.
Harry, Kent

I am 17 and don't think that giving the vote to 16 year olds in sensible. If they should be given the vote then they should be taught about politics and political parties at school as part of the curriculum
Alex Hood, West Kinsgdown

For goodness sake no! I am 17 and can honestly say that nobody at my school has a clue about politics or the implications of voting. It would be a disaster.
Claire Roberts, Darlington, England

I would agree with this proposal. There are 16 and 17-year olds around who are more politically aware than a lot of people over 18.
Nathan James, Liverpool

God no! Your average 16 year old doesn't even know who the Prime Minister is. Most of the 16 year olds I see where I live are either yobs or pushing a pram. Don't let this very immature group affect the rest of us anymore than they already do at the moment.
Matt Evans, Ashford, Middx, UK

If anything, the voting age should be raised
decision. If anything, the voting age should be raised!
No, 16 year olds shouldn't get the vote. They do not have enough life experience and maturity to make an informed decision. If anything, the voting age should be raised!
Ken, North Tyneside

Yes! If they are old enough to work and pay tax, then morally, they should have a say in how that money is spent. However, whether this will counteract the apathy remains to be seen, but it's worth a try, surely?
Claire, UK

Most 16 to 18 year olds do not live in the real world, also they are still at home with their parents so do not make a significant contribution to the economy as a group. I don't think it would be a good idea for them to vote. No offence to the 16 to 18 year olds that work and have left home but your time will come!
James Anthony, Nantwich, Cheshire, UK

When I was 16/17 I studied Politics at college, and would at that time welcomed a change in the voting age. Four years on however my opinion has changed. If the UK's population of 18-21 year olds either can't be bothered to vote or just basically don't understand, why would 16/17 year olds be any different? At 21, I have clear views and opinions about who to vote for, but I am just a minority of this age group who does so. Better education and understanding is the key to a successful turnout.
Vicki Driver, Sheffield, England

No doubt a lot of people will claim that 16 and 17 year olds 'don't know enough about life' to vote, but do most adults? The 16 and 17 year olds who bother to vote will probably have thought about it quite a lot more than people who vote through habit.
Dominic Tristram, Bath, UK

I don't know much about politics at the age of 22, how can 16 year olds really know what politics really means. However I do agree that if they can fight for their country, they can vote for the people who send them to war.
Matt, UK

Speaking as a 19 year old voter I believe it would be highly irresponsible to give the vote to under 18s, they simply don't know enough about the issues and the vast majority aren't interested in learning. When I consider the amount of my peers who at 19 and 20 have no idea about politics the thought of lowering the age further strikes me as ludicrous.
Chaz Newitt, Colchester, Essex

If you can vote, you can be voted for. At 16 you can't drive nor drink alcohol. Do we want 16 year olds elected to local authorities making licensing or highways decisions? Of course not. They can and should wait till they are 18.
David Ball, Wokingham, UK

Although 16 year olds can get a full time job and pay taxes how many do? They can't buy alcohol, claim unemployment benefits or get credit cards or loans. They can't drive and can't get insurance. Not being allowed to vote is one of many things they can't do - its not an anomaly, its for the simple reason that most 16 year olds lack the maturity and foresight to make long term choices.
Peter, Nottingham