Councillor John Swindells has tabled a motion calling for the city council to back lowering the voting age from 18 to 16.Advertisement
To say that this received a mixed reaction from our readers would be something of an understatement.
In fact, as well as people disagreeing and saying most 16-year-olds couldn’t wipe their arse (note: I could), there were also people suggesting it should be raised to 21.
The crux of a lot of the counter-argument was centred around the idea that at 16 you aren’t experienced enough to be able to make a sound decision.
It’s condescending in the extreme to suggest that you turn 18 (or 21, or 50) and suddenly you’re able to make the correct decisions at the flick of a switch.
One part of the debate suggested youngsters could be affected by ‘fake news’ from the likes of Momentum, The Canary and other left-leaning outlets. It was suggested – with a complete lack of awareness – that most of the UK national press openly favours the Tories. Being affected by the news you digest is not something that disappears with age and perceived wisdom.
The young do not traditionally vote in great numbers and this election subverted that a little because a candidate (Corbyn) opted to engage with them. Lowering the voting age would not cure political apathy, but it would further signal that their opinions are valued and make them more likely to engage in the first place. It would be churlish in the extreme to suggest that Labour wouldn’t benefit somewhat by the shift but that shouldn’t be what this is about, no matter how you vote.
What it IS about is an attempt to shift perspective. The older you get, the more likely you are to vote. As a result, policies are aimed at the more mature, while the young are often neglected. Governments in general have targeted cuts in areas that will affect older people the least as a result of this.
If lowering the voting age means that politicians will shift their attention more to the young, and build a future for them the way it did for their parents, then it’s important that it happens. At the moment, that looks like a pipe dream.
And the EU vote, whichever side of the argument you stand on, was shown up to be especially farcical because the future was decided by those who won’t be around to see the consequences.
More: Call for Preston voting age to be lowered to 16
At 16, you’re deemed mature enough to marry, pay taxes and pay criminal charges but not mature enough to be included in a democratic process. Voting is a habit, and if you don’t start voting while young, you may never start at all.
What’s crystal clear to me (and my limited life experience), is that immaturity and idiocy is not confined to the young and intelligence is far from guaranteed with age.
So to deny the vote to any aged 16 on any of these parameters is hypocritical in the extreme. Beyond that, they deserve the right for a say in a future that affects them the most.