Taking steps to equal the voting age across the UK

The Association of Colleges and the National Union of Students have launched a campaign which aims to equal the voting age across the UK to 16

Fair.Vote looks to bring together individuals and organisations from across the UK and politicians of all parties who believe that democracy should be open and fair.

The public-led campaign will see a host of activity in the lead-up to the second reading of the Private Members’ Bill introduced by Peter Kyle MP to reduce the voting age to 16 in parliamentary and other elections. The Bill is due to have its second reading in the House of Commons on 11 May 2018.

The Bill has received crossparty support from Nicky Morgan MP and Norman Lamb MP which shows that the political appetite for change is there. With Scotland already having a voting age of 16, and Wales potentially about to follow suit, it would be a profound shame for UK-wide elections and votes in England to be left lagging behind.

David Hughes, Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges, said: “Lowering the voting age to 16- and 17-year-olds is something that should be welcomed by politicians from across the political spectrum given the rise in young people’s participation in politics.

With young people’s turnout astonishingly rising in the last General Election, it’s time to think boldly about enhancing Britain’s democracy and the future of our country. In this country you can marry at 16, you can pay taxes at 16, so what’s stopping you from having the right to vote?

“The further education sector has a unique opportunity to get involved. There are 300 constituencies in the country that has FE colleges in them and every FE college will have young people attending them. They have a massive contribution to make to the future success and prosperity of our country.”

Robbie Young, NUS Vice President, said: “We believe that there is currently a fundamental inequity of rights in this country. 16 and 17-year olds living in Scotland can vote for their representatives to the devolved parliament at Holyrood and in their local authorities, but not for the government in Westminster. If you are in Wales, you will soon be granted that right. However, if you are the same age anywhere else in the UK, there is no opportunity to vote at all.

“If there is one thing that 2017 has taught us, it’s that young people are ready and willing to engage with our democracy. Many FE students feel rightly aggrieved that they are expected to pay tax, can obtain welfare benefits, and yet are denied the most basic right in a democracy. MPs must embrace the only just solution and declare their immediate support for the enfranchisement of our 16 and 17-year-olds.”

Visit fair.vote to find out more, and download our toolkit to get involved.

Follow the conversation online @fairvote16 using the hashtags #fairvote16 and #voteat16.

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