With the current EU referendum, one voice is missing from the debate; the young.
Young people have no voice in this referendum as they have no vote. There is no suffrage for those at the age of 16 or 17 in this referendum.
Some say that those of the age of 16 are not mature enough to vote and don’t have enough responsibility. Yet this is a weak argument. 16 year olds are allowed to work and pay taxes, while 17 year olds can pass their driving tests. Why shouldn’t they be allowed to vote? Also, many 16 year olds are more mature, at least in the political spectrum, than many 27, 54 and 63 year olds.
Others say that the young wouldn’t vote anyway, they say that under 16’s are disillusioned with politics. Yet, it is likely that this is because politicians don’t direct their argument towards the young, as in their minds the younger generation doesn’t matter; they are powerless, without a voice, without a vote.
This argument is also simply false, many young people are interested and active in politics. Just look at the debating societies all over the UK, in school and online. For example on the Web, there is a political simulation called the Model House of Commons, where people write legislation and debate over it. 60% of the members in MHoC are under the age of 17. This is proof that the younger generation is politically aware; and therefore need a voice, they need a vote.
This has already been done in Scotland. In the Scottish Independence Referendum, those of the age of 16 were allowed to vote, this was also repeated in the recent Scottish Assembly election. The turnout for the young was 75% in the independence referendum. The fact that those aged 16 and 17 were allowed vote made an entire generation of young Scots interested and enthused in politics. These votes lit up the political scene making the campaigns more positive and hopeful in order to aim at the more positive, younger generations. There has been a growing call for more positive campaigning, especially in the EU referendum campaign, votes at 16 could be the solution.
Participation in free elections is a fundamental human right, this is according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UK’s Human Rights Act. 16 year olds can work full-time, pay income tax or national insurance contributions, get married or enter a civil partnership, consent to medical treatment, join the armed forces should be entitled to this right, and join a trade union or Co-operative Society; therefore votes should be given to those at the age of 16 and 17. 16 year olds can be sent off to war without a voice, they didn’t even have a chance to vote for the politician, who ordered the war. 16 year olds can pay taxes and work full time, yet still, have no representation. This brings memory of the famous words by an American revolutionary against the British in 1716, James Otis: “No taxation without representation.”
Those aged 16 are interested in politics, they deserve the right to participate in the democratic process, the same as any other citizen.
Further proof of this is that 85% of secondary schools have school councils. Also, about 20,000 young people are active in local youth councils. There are 600 elected Members of Youth Parliament in the UK, each serving for 12 months and voted in by their peers. The Youth Parliament was established in 2000 and has held debates in Parliament since 2008.
Also, voting instils a sense of civic duty and encourages participation in the community and on a national scale. This is important to encourage early in life, especially when political apathy is sky–high.
Another point of view is having Universal Suffrage, where anyone can vote regardless of age, but only when one is able to independently sign a document saying that they wish to vote and understand its implications. This is an interesting idea, yet I don’t believe that it could be passed by the House of Commons. This is why I propose lowering the voting age to 16, which could, with the support of the electorate, be a possible stepping stone to universal suffrage.
Voting is a right, a right that should be extended to all 16 and 17 year olds. The decision of the EU referendum, whether we vote Brexit or Bremain, will affect the young the most. It is them who shall face the consequences of not having the Erasmus+ scheme along with a common European goal on the Environment and Human Rights. It is the young who may not be able to study and work abroad.
This is why I strongly believe that the voice of 16 and 17 year olds shouldn’t be muted. They should have a voice, they need the vote.
Give 16 and 17 year olds the vote, give them a voice.
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