BBC Home
Explore the BBC


Teachers: Citizenship: Electoral Systems

Last Updated: Friday April 29 2005 17:33 GMT

Lower the UK voting age?

Citizenship 11-14/KS3/Levels E&F
Electoral systems and voting


As the UK prepared to go to the polls, there were calls to lower the voting age to 16 to involve young people in elections more. Would a lower voting age have helped improve voter turnout?

Answer a quiz on legal ages then look at arguments for and against changing the age.

Learning aims

  • Some minimum legal ages
  • Arguments for and against change

Legal ages quiz

How do students feel about having to wait until they are 18 before they can vote?

Try a quick quiz on legal ages, there's an online version or a worksheet version of the quiz that can print on two sides of A4.

Quiz answers:

  • 1 - C
  • 2 - B
  • 3 - B
  • 4 - C
  • 5 - C
  • 6 - A
  • 7 - A
  • 8 - C
  • 9 - A
  • 10 - B


Ask students if there are any issues in the news they would like to be able to vote on.

If they were Prime Minister, what issues would be their top priority?


Print out a voting worksheet for each student.

Students put an X next to the issue they think is the most important.

The votes for the class can be totalled, like ballot papers at a polling station.

Which issue does the class as a whole think is the most important?

Ask one or two students, who voted for this issue, to explain why it is their top priority.

Main activity

Lower the voting age?

Use these two Press Pack reports to get the discussion started.

Ask the group to look at the two opposing arguments and decide on their own individual views.

In small groups storyboard a 30 second TV advert explaining what they believe and why. They should include the benefits of doing things their way, but also how they would overcome any likely problems. If they favour the status quo then they will need to find other ways of avoiding a low turnout.

Extension activity

Discuss how 16-year-olds having the vote might change the way politicians treat young people.

How old should you be to stand for election? (it's 21 at present)


If we didn't use age, how else could we decide when someone was ready to vote?

What does that tell us about using ages to decide rights? Is it fair?

Teachers' Background

What happens in other countries?

  • All the countries in the EU and most of the other 190 countries in the world have their voting age at 18. There are about 6 countries where people vote at 15 and 16. Approximately 12 countries set the voting age at 20 or 21.

  • In the UK, a general election must be held at least every five years but the Prime Minister can call one whenever she or he likes.

  • You have to be at least 18-years-old to vote.

  • Some other people aren't allowed to vote such as the mentally ill, criminals and peers (the nobility).

  • Members of Parliament (MPs) represent everyone in their constituency, even the ones who didn't vote for them.

Election 2005

Enter a full postcode




Press Packs





NR Programme

BBC Homepage >> | CBBC Homepage >>

Meet the Team | Help | Contact Us | News sources | Privacy & Cookies Policy