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.

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