British Youth Council urges lowering voting age to 16
Categories: Latest News
Friday November 07 2014
The British Youth Council launched a report yesterday urging a lowering in the voting age to 16.
The report is the product of an inquiry, led by the Youth Select Committee. Members of the British Youth Council (BYC) identified the issue of lowering the voting age as a priority at the annual BYC meeting in August 2013 and it was subsequently voted a priority campaign by the UK Youth Parliament in the House of Commons in November 2013.
The Youth Select Committee took evidence over a series of dates earlier this year in formulating the report and arguments for and against lowering the voting age.
Although the inquiry found “neither great public support nor resistance to lowering the voting age” and evidence suggesting that the public “are in general satisfied with the voting age staying as it is,” it concluded that the decision regarding whether the voting age should be lowered should not be based on the opinion of the majority but rather on “what is fair”.
The inquiry found there a worrying trend in political disengagement among young people aged 18-24 with those in this age group less likely to vote than older people. Evidence received from the Hansard Society revealed that “Just one quarter (25%) of 18-24 year olds are certain to vote in comparison to 58% of those aged 25 or over. Similarly, 18-24 year olds are less likely to be registered to vote (68%) compared to 84% of those aged 25-34 and 90% of all other aged groups.
The inquiry also explored the role of citizenship and political education in encouraging political engagement. The inquiry concluded that evidence on citizenship education was “almost universally critical” and observed that the subject was frequently taught by subject specialists in other areas meaning those teaching citizenship education were not sufficiently trained to do so. In addition, a lack of political education within citizenship education was noted by the inquiry.
Among its recommendations, alongside lowering of voting age to 16, the report proposes a comprehensive programme of youth engagement needs in order for 16 and 17 year olds to learn the requisite skills and knowledge to exercise the right to vote confidently.
Moreover, the inquiry considered the introduction of compulsory first time voting. Although it was not convinced by the proposal, it recommended that the Government should undertake a consultation to explore the matter further.
The impact of lowering the voting age to 16 upon Muslim youth is quite striking given the Census 2011 results which shows British Muslims have the youngest age profile of all faith groups in the UK.
Indeed, according to the Census 2011, 88,982 of Muslims are aged 16-17 and make up 6.4% of the youth population in this age category. The proportion is higher than for Muslims in the general population where British Muslims make up almost 5%.
Given the propensity of young Muslims to feel as though they are ‘Seen but not heard’, lowering the voting age to 16 would certainly offer them an opportunity to reverse this sentiment through formal engagement in the political process.