Friday, 25 January 2013

Votes at 16?

There was a vote in the Commons earlier this week in favour of extending the right to vote to 16 and 17 year olds.  It wasn't the sort of vote that means legislation so nothing will change straight away.  But it's interesting that MPs are debating this and giving a view in favour.

I've been in favour of votes at 16 for ages now. We assume16 year olds are mature enough to do quite a few things, including being liable to pay tax, but we don't give them a say in the laws about those things.

This seems not only wrong but illogical.

However,  I suspect those of us in favour have quite a way to go to persuade people of this.  And oddly the people who seem most to need persuading are young people themselves.

You'd think that this would be something all 16 year olds would support.  But every time I have spoken in schools to sixth formers about this, there has been a substantial group against.  The argument is that they don't feel they know enough to vote.

I tried it out on third year undergraduates this week and the verdict about voting when under 18 was pretty much the same - they felt under 18s wouldn't know what they were doing.

Now obviously if under 18s were voting, politicians would put more effort into making sure they did know the issues, and schools would feel under more pressure to do so.

But frankly those of us in favour of this change need to do a lot more to convince the "non political" young people that this is something worth doing.

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