Cornwall Council backs campaign to lower the voting age to 16

Posted on: 28th November 2015

Cornwall Council backs campaign to lower the voting age to 16, in support of young people and democracy.

Members of Cornwall Council have agreed to lobby the Government to lower the voting age to 16 to give young people the chance to have their say in shaping the polices and decisions which affect them. The decision has been welcomed by Cornwall’s three Members of the Youth Parliament who say it is a major step forward for democracy.

Following the debate at full Council, the Council will write to the Government asking for the voting age to be lowered to allow 16 year olds to vote at all further elections. They will also suggest that the 2017 Council elections could be used as a pilot for the new approach.

Introducing the motion Andrew Wallis, the Council’s Cabinet Member for Children, said that he had been a long time supporter of lowering the voting age and it was time the Government changed the law.

“There were more than 12,000 young people aged between 16 and 17 years in Cornwall at the time of the last election” he said. “Many of these young people would have welcomed the opportunity to help choose the people to represent them over the next five years.

“These young people have the right to fight for their country, to get married and to have children but are not allowed to take part in the democratic process. They can study politics in their classrooms but they are not allowed to exercise their vote in practice. This cannot be right.

“80% of 16 and 17 year olds exercised their right to vote in the recent Scottish referendum, with many politicians saying that they were among the most informed and articulate members of the public they met during the campaign. We need to support this motion and send a clear message to the young people in Cornwall that they do matter and we respect them and their views.”

The motion received overwhelming support from members of all political groups, with the vast majority of members backing the proposal to lobby the Government.

The Council’s decision has been welcomed by Cornwall’s Members of the Youth Parliament (MYPs).

“At every turn, young people are proving themselves to be well informed, articulate and engaged in politics” said Owen Winter, Member of the Youth Parliament for North and East Cornwall. “When young people were given the chance to vote in Scotland, they seized the opportunity. A politically active and engaged generation are hungry for more in Scotland. By rolling votes at 16 out across the country we could reproduce this effect nationwide.

“The fact that Cornwall Councillors from all political groupings have supported this motion sends a strong message to the Government that young people are now ready for the voting responsibility.”

“This is a massive step forward for democracy” added Owen Davies, the Member of the Youth Parliament for West Cornwall. “16 year olds are more than able to use their vote wisely, so to deny them it is simply unjust.

“Finally, progress is being made to enable 16 year olds to have a say about issues that affect them. Before the Councillors voted on the motion, Members of Youth Parliament put together a report including a lot of well written and valid arguments about why they thought 16 year olds should have the vote – the large number of people willing to write something in support of votes at 16 spoke volumes even before reading their statements; it’s clear that young people want a vote, and they are willing to fight for it.”

Joshua Boughton, the MYP for Mid Cornwall, said “The Council’s decision is a step forward for all young people, not just in Cornwall, as it may also show other councils nationwide that 16-17 years are politically engaged and want to make their voices be heard.

“Young people have already proven that they can be responsible and can make informed decisions through the election for Members of the Youth Parliament and the selection of subjects for the UKYP national campaigns, which are voted for by young people. This decision, if successful, will not only improve the lives of all 16-17 years but will also improve the overall democratic process of the UK”.