A private members bill to extend the voting age for 16- and 17-year-olds in parliamentary and other elections will have its second reading in the Commons on May 11th. This is the result of a cross-party effort to engage more young people in our democracy and, with support from all parties, it’s clear there is now a real appetite for reform. That is because we are facing a fundamental inequity of rights in this country.
In Scotland, the franchise was extended for the independence referendum in 2014 and now applies for all elections locally and to the Scottish parliament. The results have been overwhelmingly positive, so much so that the Welsh parliament will introduce similar reforms as part of their electoral reform review. However, 16- and 17-year-olds in England and Northern Ireland are not afforded these same rights.
The opponents of this reform argued that 16 is an arbitrary age. Those in favour argued that the experience from Scotland is that 16- and 17-year-olds are both capable and responsible enough to meaningfully engage with, and improve the vitality of, our democracy. It is our duty to give all 16- and 17-year-olds across the UK the chance to do so.