Cornwall Council votes to approve motion to lower the voting age to 16

Today was the day when after months of work, the full membership of Cornwall Council got to vote on the merits of lowering the voting age to 16. It has been a bumpy ride for this, with the PAC Committee not endorsing the motion when it came to them to debate. However, as this motion was to the full membership, as they have the final say.

I have been a long-time supporter of lowering the voting age from the present 18 years old. It seemed crazy that I was able to serve my Country and actually go into a war zone before I could vote.

In 2014 there were 12,846 young people aged 16 and 17 years old in Cornwall. Nationally, there are 1.5 million 16 and 17 year olds.

Lately, there has been a lot of debate nationally about lowering the voting age, including the House of Lords who have recently voted in favour of lowering the age in time for the European Referendum vote.

The Electoral Commission conducted a review of the voting age with a period of public consultation over the summer of 2003. The review reflected growing calls from a wide range of organisations to consider lowering the voting age in order to promote participation in democracy and to address the issue of disengagement particularly amongst the young. There was a lot of support to lower the age, but the Commission decided to keep the status

The Institute for Public Policy Research who in 2013 said that compelling young people to vote would help kick-start voting as a habit of a life-time. Though I do acknowledge that by allowing a lowering voting age will not solve the poor turn outs at elections.

More recently the independence vote in Scotland reaffirmed the need for change when a temporary extension of the franchise in Scotland allowing 16 and 17 year olds to vote in the referendum. 80% of eligible 16/17 years old turned out to vote.

votesat16

The facts are 16 and 17 year olds can raise families, pay tax and get married but are not allowed a vote. What does that say about our electoral system in the UK? By lowering the voting age would also send a clear message and take a significant step forward in recognizing the important role in society these young people play.

My motion is as:

“Cornwall Council should lobby the Government to lower the voting age for all elections to 16 in time for the Cornwall Council Unitary Elections in 2017; or at least for Cornwall to be a pilot authority.”

During the debate member after member stood up to agree with the principle of lowering the voting age. In fact only a few stood up to say this was not a good idea.

I am grateful to all Members who stood up and supported the motion. A few I will mention include Cllrs Jade Farrington (LD) who also seconded the motion, Hanna Toms (Labour), James Mustoe (Con) Dick Cole (MK), the Chair of the PAC, Pat Rogerson, and vice-chair, Sally Hawken. It shows this subject has cross-party support here at Cornwall Council.

The Members of Youth Parliament also did their part in getting this  motion passed by gathering the views of young people. I was able to read some of them out at the debate. A few of the comments I received were as follows:

Lucie: “I think that we should be allowed to vote because it would make politicians listen to us, because they’ll want our vote.”

Abe: “I support votes at 16 because I would like to have an impact on my future.”

Evie: “16 year olds are forced to make incredibly important decisions about their own futures, voting is also an important thing that will affect their futures, so why shouldn’t they be able to vote.”

Annabelle: ” This general elections, I was not alone in being unable to have my voice heard die to my age. Despite the fact that I pay adult fares to get to work, and have to pay adult fares for attractions such as the cinema.”

Officers in the 11 plus service, like Mel, Colin and Penni also deserve praise for their work in this area.

Any debate rests on a vote, and I was rather nervous of this getting passed. However, the vote was resounding majority in favour, with only (I counted) five against. With this motion now passed, a plan will be worked up, giving as much evidence as we can, and from that sent to the Government who I hope will move from their entrenched position of not lowering the voting age.

For me, I am very happy this motion has been passed. It is something I have passionately believed in for a long-time.

Votes at 16 hits the buffers at Cornwall Council’s Young People Committee

Following on from Cornwall Council’s full meeting where I with cross-party support presented a motion that would ask the Council to lobby Government to lower the age of voting to at least 16.

To refresh, the motion was as follows:

“Cornwall Council should lobby the Government to lower the voting age to at least 16 in time for the Cornwall Council Unitary Elections in 2017, or at least Cornwall to be a pilot authority.”

This motion was refered to the Children’s PAC (Policy Advisory Committee) for further debate with a recommendation back to full council.

Today was the day when the committee supported – in writing – by the MYP’s would discuss the merits of lowering the voting age. I believed – as this issue is in all – but the Tory’s – the major political parties manifestos, there was wide-spread support for a change in the law. However, I was to be proved wrong and left disappointed with the outcome.

Many argue which is backed up with The Institute for Public Policy Research who in 2013 said that compelling young people to vote would help kick-start voting as a habit of a life-time. It would also send a clear message that by lowering the voting age it would be a significant step forward in recognising the important role in society these young people play.

In 2014 there were 12,846 young people aged 16 and 17 years old in Cornwall. This is split down further by: 6304 sixteen year olds and 6542 seventeen year olds. This represents addition of 3% to the electorate if they were allowed to vote.  Furthermore, the Scottish Indy Referendum proved lowering the voting age worked.

In the debate and the vote at today’s commitee those against seems to come from the ‘cannot be trusted with the vote’ to “if we allow 16/17 year olds to vote, then they will want to stand for election too.” In the latter point, I have no problem with 16/17 year olds standing for office. However, that would need a change in different legislation and it is something that is not included in this motion, or indeed the Cities Bill, were in paragraph 20 of the Bill provides:

“Governance arrangements for local government: entitlement to vote

In section 2 of the Representation of the People Act 1983 (local government electors), in subsection (1)(d) for “18” substitute “16”.”

With 10 councillors on the committee a vote was taken, the outcome of that vote was six councillors voted against:

That the Committee recommends that Cabinet lobby the Government to lower the voting age for all elections to at least 16 in time for the May 2017 local elections, suggesting that Cornwall is used as a pilot area.

The councillors who were against were: Cllrs – Burden (Indi), Batters (LD), Bastin (Con), Evans (Con), Dyer (Con) and Heyward (Indi).  Those for and in support of lowering the voting age were: Cllrs – Rogerson (LD), Frank (LD), Hawken (Indi) and Toms (Labour). (as portfolio holder I do not get a vote).

Lowering the vote at 16 is something young people want and this committee should help represent the views of young people as best it can. Today this did not happen. It is no surprise that young people feel disaffected when they have no say in those who represent them.

There is however, one saving grace. As this was a motion to full council, this motion will return to full council were the full membership can take a view on this subject. I hope there will be a better outcome in November.

My Cornwall Council ‘votes at 16 motion’ is referred to the Young People Committee (PAC)

It will be of no surprised, that the motion for votes at 16 was referred to the Young People PAC for the evidence to be collated that I hope will give weight to lowering the voting ages to at least 16.

Once this evidence has been collated on why we should lower the voting age, then we will ask the Government to at least pilot Cornwall as an areas where 16 and 17 year olds can vote in time for the next Cornwall Council elections. Off course, this change needs to be supported by the full membership.

The latest Lord’s vote on this subject and their defeat of the Government on lowering the voting age has sent a clear signal to the Government there is the need to change the current situation. Though I do know, there will be a strong opposition to lowering the voting age.

The motion and previous blog on this subject can be found HERE

Motion to Cornwall Council for lowering the voting age to 16

Even before I became Portfolio Holder for Young People, I believed the voting age of 18 needed to be reviewed and indeed lowered.

I say this because nearly 28 years ago I joined the Armed Forces at a little over 17 years old. I found it rather ironic that I could be sent to war (17 and a half) and could not vote, or have a say in who might send me to the next bun fight in some far off land.

In the eyes of the law, I was old enough to fight and die for my Country, but not to vote…

In recent years there has been a groundswell for the voting age to be at least reviewed. The independence vote in Scotland reaffirmed the need for change when a temporary extension of the franchise in Scotland allowing 16 and 17 year olds to vote in the referendum.

The truth is there are over 1.5 million 16 and 17 year olds in the UK who are denied the vote.

I made this statement last year:

In the 2010 elections, over 75% of people aged 65+ voted. This group received free bus travel, free TV license, free prescriptions, winter fuel allowance to name but a few. Compare this to only 44% of young people voted. They had EMA taken away, tuition frees tripled and youth services are under huge pressures and reductions. Is this related? Yes, it is. If young people were more engaged and had the ability to vote, then maybe the services young people value would be on a more even footing.

Why hasn’t anything changed? Well in 2003 The Electoral Commission conducted a review of the voting age with a period of public consultation over the summer of 2003. The review reflected growing calls from a wide range of organisations to consider lowering the voting age in order to promote participation in democracy and to address the issue of disengagement particularly amongst the young.

The Commission published its findings in April 2004. Although most responses to its consultation paper supported a voting age of 16, more general opinion polling had suggested strong support for keeping to the present minimum. The Commission therefore recommended that:

“The minimum age for all levels of voting in public elections in the UK should remain at 18 years for the time being.”

 

With a new government, and Cornwall having the ear of the government in the Case for Cornwall, I have submitted a motion to lobby Government to lower the voting age to at least 16 in time for the next unitary elections.

In the words of the motion I say,

“The voice of 16 and 17 year olds is important and where we have a set Parliament of five years there is risk of disenfranchising young people, as those aged 16 and 17 would not have the democratic right until 21/22. – after many would have left University.”

 

“Cornwall Council should lobby the Government to lower the voting age to at least 16 in time for the Cornwall Council Unitary Elections in 2017, or at least Cornwall to be a pilot authority.”

This has a financial and governance implication therefore:

· I would like this motion to be referred to the Young People’s PAC for this to be discussed and for recommendations to be worked up.
· In the discussion at PAC, I would like the MYP’s to be invited to be part of the process.

The input of the MYP’s is important as the 6 MYP’s in Cornwall are campaigning along with their colleagues around the County for the law to be changed as part of the UK Youth Parliament and its manifesto.

furthermore, most of the major political parties in the UK have in one-way-or-another committed to lowering the voting age and therefore, in the motion to Council I wanted to make it apolitical.

I am pleased to say, the Lib Dems, Labour MK and Tory have supported this (as have the Green Party Member – but already had the required supporters) motion.

However, the real work in building up a case will be carried out by the Young People’s PAC.

The vote on whether this motion is referred to the PAC (or not) takes place on Tuesday 21st July.

We need to enfranchise our young people and giving them the vote is one way of doing it.