Why we need votes at sixteen
This last election something exciting entered the mainstream political agenda. The Labour Party proposed votes at sixteen and put it forward seriously. Yes, the Green Party have suggested this before, but this time it wasn’t promoted by a fringe party, but the largest party in Britain. Many may approach this policy with a cynical view that Corbyn only wants to expand his support, however I and many others would suggest that this is a point of principle not merely party politics.
Within reason, young people deserve the vote like anyone else because, as citizens, they are worthy of the right to express and empower their interests. This is the basic principle of democracy. The young have faced significant setbacks – university fees, cuts to A-level subjects, higher rents and harder competition for well-paid jobs. Now let’s just imagine that the older population faced this – a government would barely last a week. The young’s voting behaviour in comparison, is often deemed apathetic. Votes at sixteen could massively change this; the extension of the vote would mean that the young demographic would expand massively. This would push politicians to canvass and attract youth voters with policies that work for them. It would lead to greater accountability for politicians and a greater level of democracy in the UK. This should surely be viewed as a good thing.
One of the primary arguments used to oppose votes at sixteen is that young people are not well informed enough or intelligent enough to vote. There are a couple of glaringly obvious holes in this argument. One being that in a democracy you cannot use a vote irresponsibly and you don’t, and shouldn’t have to, meet a level of intelligence to vote. The other error in this debate is that it lies on the assumption your knowledge of politics grows between sixteen and eighteen. Now I have nothing against apprenticeships or vocational degrees, they are essential to our society, but the idea that a vocational degree somehow educates you about the current political climate is unfounded. It is clear that this argument is not based on logic but some level of prejudice.
It makes perfect sense to give sixteen-year-olds the vote as it allows them to influence their future. But in a practical way it would make much greater sense to bring laws like age of consent and voting age together. Surely if this government believes that a sixteen year old is responsible enough to have a child and look after them, then they believe that they are responsible enough to have a vote. Moreover, surely parents should have a say in the future of their children and the education system they participate in.
Finally, the young deserve representation for one simple reason. They are equal citizens in our society and they pay tax. The youth pay VAT and if they earn enough before eighteen they can pay tax. If they pay for the government, the government should be accountable to them. The young people of this country are intelligent and should not be underestimated, they should not be looked down on and they should not be short-changed for their contribution to society. It is simple, we are equal and we deserve representation.