Under 18s are children, so they shouldn't vote

25 Oct 2016

 IMPACT Article of the Month



Those on the left and centre of politics seem a bit confused as to whether 16 and 17-year-olds are classified as adults or children; some seem to think they can fall under both categories, mostly because it's an opportunity to garner more support.


Over the last few months we have heard the heartfelt case for accepting child refugees, including those up to the age of 18 and who have relatives in the United Kingdom. The case for children is special because they are vulnerable, ‘open to exploitation,’ as the Guardian put it. In August this year, that same newspaper published a harrowing story about a 17-year old refugee stuck in Calais.


When it comes to a cause they support, journalists and politicians on the left and centre of politics are more than happy to label 16 and 17-year-olds as 'vulnerable' and 'unaccompanied.’ However, when it comes to voting, the same politicos and journos suddenly consider this age group responsible enough to vote; 'mature' and 'informed' as the Guardian's editorial board summarised in 2014.


All political parties, except those on the right - Conservatives and UKIP - support lowering the voting age. However, this is political opportunism at its best, under the pretence of progressiveness. Younger age groups, time and time again, are shown to be more supportive of left and centre-left political parties. In the Scottish Referendum in 2014, they were shown to be disproportionately in favour of separation - far more so than their peers in the 18-25 age bracket. 


At the risk of alienating a number of younger readers, I will come clean: I do not believe 16 or 17-year-olds should have the vote. It's not that I don't trust their judgement or motives, but I do believe adulthood is a pre-requisite for such a responsibility and if society says adulthood starts at 18 years, then eligibility to vote should be set by this benchmark.  


I can imagine myself willing to back votes for 16, but only in a world where we allow this age group to buy a beer, marry without consent, take out a mortgage, and most importantly, face adult prosecution under the law for criminal activity - the law is an important benchmark on what age somebody is considered 'adult.’ Voting is one of the most important responsibilities a citizen is entrusted with, and if 16 and 17-year-old citizens are deemed not to be mature enough for any of the above, then they are not mature enough to vote. Sorry.


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