Many major political events have occurred in the United Kingdom over the past year - Brexit and the 2017 General Election to name but a few. Every single one of these events has or will affect sixteen to seventeen year-olds, arguably more so than they will affect the older generation of British citizens. Despite this they are still being denied the vote. But why?
Surely it’s incredibly unfair that the sixteen to seventeen year-old demographic does not get a say on decisions that will directly affect them as they move into adulthood and the world of work?
One of the most commonly cited reasons for not allowing young people to vote at sixteen is because they do not pay taxes and therefore do not contribute into the economy. However, when it comes to voting for the political party you want to run the country, this simply should not be an issue. Sixteen and seventeen year-olds are citizens of the United Kingdom and their worth as citizens should not be determined by their economic status. Although they may not be paying taxes when they first vote, they’ll soon be paying them for the rest of their lives. It therefore makes sense for this group to be allowed to vote on how their future taxes are spent and by which political party. Having to wait only serves to give young people more time to become disillusioned with a political system in which they have no real say.
By contrast, if young people were allowed to vote at sixteen, they would be much more engaged with politics. It would mean that political parties could rally support from the younger demographic: a demographic that could potentially keep supporting the same party throughout their adult lives. All because the political system got them engaged early and actually valued their opinions on contemporary issues. In addition, allowing young people to vote at sixteen adds diversity to the political thought among the general public. It’s common knowledge that older people vote more than younger people. However, if you allow more young people to vote, the government can access a wider range of viewpoints and create policy that takes into account a range of age groups.
Decisions made by the government in 2017 will affect citizens of the United Kingdom more than ever before. Sixteen and seventeen year-olds are part of that public. It’s simply common sense that they should have an equal say on who runs this country and how they do it. The fact that this argument is still being debated is ridiculous. We live in a democracy, yet this democracy is denying a significant part of its population the right to have a say in how the government operates. In order to create greater political engagement amongst young people, allow them to vote earlier.
It’s that simple.