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.