In Scotland, people who were 16 and older were able to vote in the Independence Referendum in 2014. Subsequently, it was thought that the expansion of the electorate to include teenagers swung the result of the referendum so that Scotland did not become an independent country.
As someone who was two weeks too young to vote in the United Kingdom European Union membership referendum, I am a large supporter of the electorate being expanded. Several political parties are also in favour of 16-year olds being able to vote, including Labour, Liberal Democrats, and the SNP.
I believe that if 16-year olds are legally able to give sexual consent, can work, can pay taxes, join a trade union and even leave home without parent or guardian consent, then they should be able to vote too.
On the Conservative party website, it states, “There is no upper or lower age limit on membership, although children under the age of 15 cannot be enrolled as full voting members.” This inclusion of all ages in the Conservative Party membership leads to the subsequent question, why can’t those 16 and above have the right to vote? Alternatively, the Labour party have certain qualifications to become a member of their party, one of which is you have to be over 18 years old and a member of the electorate register. Surely, these qualifications contradict their support of 16-year olds becoming members of the electorate?
On the flip side, many argue that 16 or 17-year olds are apathetic and not concerned with politics or government. Another argument against 16-year olds being added to the electorate is that they aren’t politically aware or conscious enough to make an informed decision. However, surely this is the case for the elderly too? At least teenagers are more conscious of the risks of believing political propaganda and fake news compared to baby boomers. Most 16-year olds pursue higher education and can take courses such as History, Philosophy, and Politics that further educate them about free speech and the political climate. If anything, they are highly educated on political matters; most have grown up surrounded by increased use of referendums and dynamic debates and regular change in Prime Ministers.
Another argument against apathy is that students have the means to go out and get information surrounding political debates as they are more familiar with technology, further enabling them to research political manifestos, MP voting history, and legislation. Perhaps most importantly, the political decisions that are made have the most long-standing effect on those who are younger, using Brexit as an example, teenagers are going to have to live with the consequences of the referendum for a lot longer than older generations. Teenagers should no longer be denied the opportunity to be part of the electorate.