Ed Miliband has considered giving 16 and 17 year olds the vote, starting from the 2016 local elections and elections in the devolved areas for the Scottish Parliament and such like. This has been on the cards since it was announced 16 year olds were allowed to vote in the Scottish Referendum, as demanded by Alex Salmond and his SNP cronies. The people who are for this move, claim that this will embolden younger people, get them involved in politics and give them a voice. They used the Scottish Referendum to supposedly show that giving younger people the vote will give young people a new life-blood when it comes to politics. The sad truth is, this wasn’t seen in the referendum at all. Only 65% of 16-24 year olds voted, compared to the turnout coming in at 85.9%. If turnout was reduced to a normal level for an election at around the 60%, turnout amongst younger people would be pitiful. This is only the beginning of the argument against the dangerous move to lower voting age limits.
While it is true some 16-17 year olds will be mature enough and know enough to be able to vote in an informed manner, this is not the case for the majority of people in this age bracket. Indeed most laws must be made upon the needs of the many, not the wishes of the few. Legislation for youth votes falls into this bracket sadly. The stereotypical debate that the electorate are already politically naïve and illiterate is no defence to expand the institution of voting to a new group. This would only further endanger our political discourse by appealing to the lowest common denominator. Not only are people of this age likely to be uninformed (because of limited politics taught in schools) and a lack of understanding on the big issues (tax, the economy, etc), they are also at risk of thinking radically. This radical thought could potentially lead to a resurgence to party’s like the BNP.
Not only are there competency issues and engagement issues, protection issues also play a part. How does the government protect a 16 year old in a politically motivated household not to be unduly influenced in the way they vote? This is without doubt the most serious hurdle which the movement for this notion has to answer for. The same argument was made against women having the vote for example, however women could always be emancipated and vote without duress, the same is not true with children; who will always be under this criterion. For those who cite their liberal credentials through this cause need to remember even JS Mill didn’t give minors the same rights as adults. This measure could just give pushy parents an extra vote through their inexperienced children.
All in all I tend to think it would be better if we kept voting to 18 year olds and over. The advantages of making voting more inclusive would need sufficient measures to ensure there was any positive to come from this move. In fact just to give this age group a vote with no follow up would be downright irresponsible. The dangers of allowing an age group who, in the main, are unsure about politics and the underlying principles that adults are able to fully comprehend. The protection of children and voters must be considered, getting around this issue is troublesome. Youth votes could make a make a substantial difference to election results, not always for the better. This was seen in the Scottish Referendum where 71% of 16-24 were pro-independence but were roundly defeated by 10 points. Giving young people the vote wouldn’t change things and would lead to a quagmire of issues in the process, no thanks for me.
By Sam Mace, Junior Writer at Daily Political View
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