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.
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.