16: A suitable age to vote?

Here in the UK, becoming 16 years old is a milestone, the beginning of certain types of responsibility. Youthoria.org states that at 16 we can consent to sexual activity, work full time (if you have left school) and even become a pilot glider, amongst many other things. Although, we cannot vote.

Currently you have to be 18 to vote in the United Kingdom and this issue of lowering that age has been up for dispute. As a college student, I was very much aware of the 2015 General Election and there was a real ‘buzz’ within the college at the time. Many students were voicing their opinions, joining extra curricular political groups, even listening to a hustings event where candidates for the constituency answered our questions. I narrowly missed out on voting ( 5 months to be precise) and it was irritating that I could not voice my opinion, as I have always been interested in politics.

University and education is becoming a major part of politics, and teenagers are leaving university in £27,000 of debt plus expenses. The last general election saw Ed Miliband promising a cut of £3,000 a year to university fees making it £6,000 a year. As we know, the Conservatives won a majority in the general election, and that has meant university fees are still at £9,000. There is speculation that figure may rise in the coming years. The people that will be directly affected by university changes will have been the 16-17 year old that could not vote. University could be a real prospect for them and, clearly, with a majority of voters 18+ and left university, it is not in their personal interest to vote for the cuts on university fees.

I asked Zaire M’Benga (17) a York College student if he thought it was right for a 16 year old to gain the right to vote. He told me, “I don’t know, personally when I was 16 I didn’t understand the concept of political parties, taxes and budget cuts. When you’re 16, you don’t understand, and from that basis I could not have made an informed decision.

Another student at York College, Jasmine Newby-Smith (18) agreed 16 year old’s should have the right to vote. “It affects the next 5 years of their life, a lot of budget cuts concern education and their futures!”

Votesat16 – http://www.votesat16.org/about/ offers an interesting insight into voting at age 16 saying “Votes at 16 will inspire young people to get involved in our democracy.” 16 year olds will definitely feel more involved and ‘in touch’ with their country when they help decide the outcome.  Something that may need to be changed is school curriculum, so it involves a basic level of government and politics. Therefore at 16 we as a nation know 16 year olds are making an informed choice.

Of course, there is no definitive answer to whether 16 year olds are suitable to vote, although i’m sure there will come a time when voting at 16 is compulsory.  – I just hope it is sooner rather than later.

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