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Should the voting age in local and general elections be reduced to 16

June 28, 2018 5:00 PM
By Gary Fuller in Folkestone Herald - Talking Points

Gary FullerIt is patently obvious that the voting age for all UK elections and referenda should be reduced to sixteen. Young people not only have the right to influence decision makers, but they are also the group that suffers the most significant long-term effects of the political decisions that are made in our country.

It is a travesty that it is possible for a young person to make a significant contribution to our society, through the world of work or through service in the armed forces, at an age when that individual has absolutely no say in how our country is run. It defies belief.

At the age of sixteen, if a person earns more than £162 per week, they are expected to make National Insurance contributions. Those contributions are used to pay for society's safety net for the vulnerable and also for our proudest institution, the NHS.

On the one hand those contributions are expected and required, but on the other the ability to influence how they are spent is denied to young people by our Government. This is a completely unfair situation, and leaves young people disenfranchised at the very point at which they should be becoming politically engaged.

Moreover, it leads to a situation where decisions are made for our country, which have a direct effect on young people, over which they have no control whatsoever. Such decisions can have a massive impact on young people's life chances, yet they have no say in how they are made.

This cannot be a state of affairs that continues. Our political system has a number of fundamental issues, one of which is how we engage young people. A first step in doing so is to extend the vote to sixteen and seventeen-year olds. Young people deserve the right to vote.