Disclaimer: This is an opinion piece. Please don’t take my word for everything I say. You can disagree with it. Anyone can.
These are some of the points I often hear when discussing votes at 16.
- “It’ll reduce alienation among the youth”
- “It’ll increase turnout”
- “Citizenship classes are compulsory in the UK so people are informed enough to vote at 16”
Today I’ll be writing about why I refute these claims and why granting 16 year olds the right to vote largely speaking is not something which should happen.
1. Most young people who are ‘alienated’ with politics either lack knowledge on the subject or simply unfairly hold politicians to account for shortcomings they see.
I, for one, am definitely not disillusioned. I recognise that institutions such as the youth parliament are put in place for teenagers who want (and are given) a voice. If you’re like any normal kid in the western world, google is always by your side if you want to query something.Virtually every region in the UK has a youth wing of a party. So when I hear people tell me that there is no way they can make a difference unless they can vote I sigh. It’s simply not true. Also, I (take note of the personal pronoun, this is MY opinion) feel that a lot people my age simply grumble about inept politicians without even understanding the role they play. If you’re a homeless 50 year man with a disability who’s not being rehabilitated then I understand your frustration with the system. Time and time again it has failed you. But if you’re say, a 16 year old who laments the failure of a politician to reduce alcoholism in a borough while that same 16 year old is too young to have even been allowed to drink the substance, then you begin to realise that person best be old enough to know what he’s dealing with. The point I’m making is how effectively can people critique something without even understanding its effects? And I don’t think they can do so well enough to warrant getting voting rights. Most nations agree that 18 is when you turn an adult. I firmly believe that only once you feel the effects of the system can you accurately grasp how you want it to change. Anything less that that is dabbling with hypotheticals you cannot predict.
2. In all previous general elections, it has been the youngest age group which tends to produce the lowest turnout.
So there goes the myth that us teenagers are impatiently brimming with enthusiasm to vote. It’s clear that collectively we do not add any extra energy to an already lethargic process. The argument that the youth are the most passionate when it comes to politics is sadly not one rooted in logic nor evidence. I wish it was the case, but it is only this small yet vocal minority that has effectively ignited the votes at 16 debate. The recent Scottish referendum bucks the trend but that’s simply because once something is inaugurated it’s vogue reaches its peak (Just like 3D cinema, who even finds that good now?) and after that, there is no reason not to believe that 16 and 17 year olds would also conform to the “younger you are, the less likely you are to vote” trend that has stayed constant throughout our democracy. That’s some evidence for you.
3. If your primary source of knowledge when it comes to politics is just your citizenship and not first hand experience, it’s hard to convince someone you are well poised to vote.
I’m going to recycle parts of my initial point, but I feel it holds true here as well. I like that some people my age have opinions on big issues they do not even yet have to face, it’s good be conscious of them. The qualm I have however is being allowed to vote them, for example, repealing a law you’ve never seen the effects of. Citizenship classes aim to to put a band aid on abyss of knowledge yet to be filled. There’s also the question of simply reflecting the views of the teacher. Basically indoctrination. Citizenship classes should be treated like any other subject. To give this class the significance it would get if 16 and 17 year olds could vote is not only outlandish, but a pressure on the teacher because it gives them a responsibility which would entail helping students how they should vote. I can’t be the only which thinks this is unreasonable.
Come under no illusion, only once you reap the effects of something are you in a steady and fair place to influence its future. That, coupled with the lack of maturity and enthusiasm of our youth is why I’m not fully convinced we should get the vote.
But I’m open to alternate opinions. Let me know what you think in the comments below!