Ever since the 2014 Scottish referendum on independence where 16 and 17 year olds could vote, the possibility of under 18 voting in general elections has gained more attention than ever before. But what are the positives of allowing children to vote? Why are some people opposed to this change?

What are the views of our different parties?

While Scottish and Welsh 16 and 17 year olds can vote for regional parliaments and assemblies, they have been denied the vote for their constituency MP. However, former Scottish Conservative leader, Ruth Davidson, declared she was a “fully paid-up member of the ‘votes at 16’ club”.  After the 2014 Scottish Referendum, she was proud to say that “It appears 16 and 17-year-olds considered the facts just as rationally – if not more so – as everyone else”. Nevertheless, the Conservatives of today hold a strong stance of maintaining the voting age at 18.

As far as other party views go, Labour pledged to lower the voting age to 16 in their latest manifesto and promised to improve access to voting by ensuring everyone who is entitled to vote can do so by introducing a system of automatic voter registration. The Liberal Democrats also support lowering the voting age to 16, and made it an explicit goal for the 2019 election, but were crushed by time pressures.

Would we even benefit from a youth vote?

Many argue that since statistically, older generations vote more conservatively, the youth vote would provide more liberal and left-wing votes, supporting smaller parties such as the Green party and Liberal Democrats.

Introducing the younger voting age could arguably also encourage more political participation as they would be able to vote on issues affecting their future. Particularly, modern pan-national problems such as the environment and social justice would benefit as they affect the entire world and fresh, young views and opinions could be just what is needed to progress and solve these matters.

Also, since there are so many pressures and obligations placed on under 18s (GCSEs, A levels, university), it would be commensurate to allow them the vote in order to influence the political landscape they are subject to.

What are the alleged downfalls of this proposal?

Some argue that 16 and 17 year olds are simply too young to understand the system and require more education on UK and worldwide politics before being exposed to the harsh reality. Therefore, it is thought that more schooling on the system is necessary and a Cabinet Office Spokesperson came forward to say “what is vital is that we educate people from a younger age about democracy and give them the confidence and enthusiasm to participate”. Nonetheless, it could be said that today’s youth is on average, better educated and informed on political matters than ever before through the wider use of social media, the growth of the internet, and now even the introduction of Government and Politics as a subject for AS and A level in schools.

Nevertheless, it is still debated that since they are not legally adults, these young teens should be voting on matters that would not affect them. They would be influenced by these decisions in just a few years, but this is still a strong opinion many hold.

Also, older voters have the impression that under 18s simply are not mature or serious enough and should not be handed this responsibility as they would not vote sincerely. According to this view, over one night, from turning 17 to 18, it would seem that maturity is reached, which is just not the case.

This debate continues today with promises and claims from parties and wishes from the youth. With the Electoral Reform Society playing a large role in the push for under votes at 16, it would not be surprising to find this to be a reality in only a few years’ time.