William Eichler 05 December 2019

Students urge Whitehall to lower voting age to 16

Student representatives have called on the next UK Government to follow Wales and Scotland in lowering the voting age to 16.

The National Union of Students (NUS) has accused Whitehall of discrimination against young people and warned that the UK Government risks falling behind the devolved nations when it comes to extending the franchise.

Sixteen-year-olds in Scotland are able to vote in Holyrood and council elections and also in referendums, while Wales is set to ratify votes at 16 for assembly and council elections.

The NUS, which has timed its announcement to coincide with ‘Democracy Day’, insisted that all parties, campaigners, and the media should highlight the need for reform of UK politics.

As well as advocating the extension of the franchise to 16-year-olds, the student body also said proposals for voter ID – put forward by the current Government – should be dropped and automatic voter registration should be introduced.

‘While we’re delighted to see so many young people registered for this election of our lives, and thrilled that hundreds of thousands of students and young people in Wales and Scotland will benefit from the progressive voting steps being taken in those nations, it’s inexcusable that these same groups of young people remain locked out of Westminster elections, and that young people in other parts of our country are lagging behind their friends and families,’ said NUS national president Zamzam Ibrahim.

Figures provided by the Electoral Commission show over 1.4 million 18-25-year-olds and 1.2 million 25-34-year-olds have registered to vote since the general election was called, but there are approximately 1.5 million 16-17-year-olds living in the UK today denied a say in this election.

‘Greta Thunberg, aged 16, has already told the world that “people are underestimating the force of angry young kids” and she is right. The next Government must listen, or risk alienating and frustrating a generation even more,’ Ms Ibrahim continued.

‘If Westminster truly wants young people the length and breadth of the UK to engage in parliamentary democracy, then politicians in London need to make votes at 16 the new norm for all elections and to make voter registration as automatic as receiving your national insurance number.’

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