Alison Suttie writes…Why shouldn’t 16 year olds vote in the EU Referendum

In the wake of the House of Lords voting to give 16 and 17 year olds the vote in the EU Referendum, Alison Suttie wrote about the debate for the Huffington Post.

It’s fair to say she was unimpressed with the Tories’ arguments against the measure:

Some of the arguments we heard from Tory peers against extending the franchise for the EU referendum last night were truly absurd and were the sort of patronising arguments and attitudes that would not have sounded out of place in the House of Lords a hundred years ago in debates about giving women the right to vote. 16-year-olds are mature enough to work and pay tax. They are mature enough to join the army or get married. Suggesting that they are incapable of understanding political debate is patronising in the extreme.

As a Scot, Alison knows only too well the positive impact 16 and 17 year olds had on the referendum.

No-one who saw the energy that 16 and 17-year-olds brought to the independence referendum in Scotland would agree with those who argue that young people should not get involved in politics. My niece was one of 17-year-olds who took the chance to have their say on the future of her Scotland in the referendum last year. She was informed, passionate and committed to her preferred side of the argument. No one will ever persuade me that Liberal Democrats were wrong to support the extension of the franchise and give her the vote at that poll.

She looked at what happens next:

No-one who saw the energy that 16 and 17-year-olds brought to the independence referendum in Scotland would agree with those who argue that young people should not get involved in politics. My niece was one of 17-year-olds who took the chance to have their say on the future of her Scotland in the referendum last year. She was informed, passionate and committed to her preferred side of the argument. No one will ever persuade me that Liberal Democrats were wrong to support the extension of the franchise and give her the vote at that poll.

You can read her whole article here. 

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21 Comments

  • Why shouldn’t 14 year olds vote in the EU referendum?

    Why shouldn’t 12 year olds vote in the EU referendum?

    Why shouldn’t 10 year olds vote in the EU referendum?

    You get the idea… The simple answer is that you’ve got to draw the line somewhere, and 18 seems as good as anywhere. A non-scientific poll on the Student Room website suggests that a lot of people around that age group actually agree :-

    http://tsrmatters.com/the-voting-age-should-stay-at-18-says-students/

    A more scientific poll by YouGov a couple of years ago found 57% of 18-24 year olds opposed to lowering the voting age, with only 21% in favour :-

    https://cdn.yougov.com/cumulus_uploads/document/49tn1jeqcj/YG-Archive-voting-age-results-210813.pdf

    Liberals are perfectly happy to treat 16 year olds as children when it suits them – the most obvious example being the treatment of 16 year olds in custody.

  • Phil Beesley 22nd Nov '15 - 5:23pm

    I’m respectful of how Scots conducted their referendum debate and campaigns. On the whole, viewed from south of the border, actions appear to have been decent and honest. The referendum captured the imagination of 17 and 70 year olds.

    I have a suspicion that the UK-wide EU referendum will be the opposite. It will be both stultifyingly boring and deeply unpleasant. If you want to engage young people in electoral politics, the EU referendum is the wrong starting point.

  • @jedibeeftrix

    That may be the case in England but not throughout the UK. For example in Scotland the age of criminal responsibility is 12 , the age at which contracts are not voidable is 16 and above, and you can marry without parental consent from 16. So if English young people are not mature enough to vote why penalise those in Scotland who clearly are?

  • Does anyone still think there will be a referendum? With the chaoe in Europe I doubt there will be. Either put off because of the chaos and threat or the EU collapses. Depends on which comes first.

  • Tim Pollard 23rd Nov '15 - 8:42am

    No taxation without representation. If you are old enough to pay income tax, you are old enough to vote.

  • John Barrett 23rd Nov '15 - 8:56am

    Like many others, including the majority of 16-18 year old school student I have spoken to, I doubt most 16 year olds are mature enough to get married or join the army.

    Maybe 18 would be a better age for both decision and then the other issues, like not being able to buy alcohol or cigarettes until age 18 would make more sense.

    Just because they can get married at 16 does not mean they are mature enough to do so.

  • John Barrett 23rd Nov '15 - 9:13am

    Tim – I agree.

    Maybe the true radical policy for the party would be to say no taxation for under 18s. Maybe I will draft such a motion for conference.

    This would give them a helping hand early on in life and for once we would have a policy which would be attractive to those who do not remain in full time education until age 18.

    It might also be quite popular with young people, even if they don’t vote…..until they are 18.

    If the choice was paying tax or voting, sadly, I suspect many people of all ages in the UK would rather lose the vote.

  • Why aren’t we just honest enough to say, “We want the voting age lowered to 16 because we believe that 16-17 yo’s will, most likely, vote the way we want them to”….

  • Once again we have a LibDem sounding off without having listened to their own voice and thought through the implications of what they are saying.

    “There is a certain irony in 16 and 17-year-olds having to rely on unelected peers to stand up for their democratic rights.”
    What democratic rights are we actually talking about? and if 16 and 17 year olds have democratic rights then do those under 16 also have democratic rights and how are these going to be addressed? I suspect that what many forget is there really is no such thing as ‘rights’, but there are obligations with consideration for others one of them. So in 1975 those who votes had the obligation to take into consideration their children and future generations when casting their vote; this seems to be something many in their demands for ‘rights’ and ‘me’ seem to have forgotten.

    “Young people will have to live with the consequences of the referendum far longer than any of the peers who voted on extending the franchise in the House of Lords last night.”
    No problem here, only Tim is in agreement with David and hence has no intention of considering a future referendum, so currently those under 16, who will live with the consequences even longer than those 16+ are currently being denied their “democratic rights”.

    “No-one who saw the energy that 16 and 17-year-olds brought to the independence referendum in Scotland would agree with those who argue that young people should not get involved in politics.”
    I not aware of anything that prevents young people from getting involved – we did! : decimalisation, EEC membership, fluoridation of the water supply, human rights, conservation, environment etc. etc. And yes we were informed, largely because we had more time to actually read and discuss topics than our parents who were busy working and running our homes. However, we saw the world in black and white, it was only later that we appreciated the shades of greys and that other viewpoints often saw things much more clearly than we had…

    How is voting against votes for 16~17 year olds “against the interests of young people.”?

    I think once again we have the LibDem’s misunderstanding the situation.For the EU referendum we need to ensure that the result cannot be challenged, if you believe the UK should remain in the EU then this means not giving the most vocal outer’s any grounds to complain that the result was ‘fixed’.

  • Peter Davies 23rd Nov '15 - 11:03am

    @John Barrett
    If we’d given that option to the Americans, we’d still rule America (and be even broker).

  • Richard Underhill 23rd Nov '15 - 11:07am

    Stuart 22nd Nov ’15 – 1:56pm Lots of people who do not have voting rights are protected by minority rights.
    What Richard Nixon used to do was to take an argument to its extreme and show that the extreme was worthy of ridicule, but the argument was not worthy of ridicule before it was taken to its extreme.
    expats 23rd Nov ’15 – 9:28am Because we do not know that, and even if we did it would be the wrong argument. What Alison is arguing for here is a matter of principle, which has been Liberal Democrat policy for decades, and which has been supplemented by her experience in the Scottish referendum. David Cameron and Alex Salmond agreed in Edinburgh that 16 year olds could vote in the Scottish referendum. Some of those same people were denied the vote at the 2015 general election, which must have been a bizarre experience for them. To deny them the vote in the euro referendum would compound the effect.
    NewsHound | Sun 22nd November 2015 – 1:24 pm has provided an extract of her article, but please read the whole thing at the link provided, because one house of parliament has done its job, but the next stage is to persuade the other house to agree and pass the legislation. That means persuading Tory MPs, who might listen to their leader in Scotland, or to a former MP of their party in The Times on Saturday 21/11/2015.
    I recall being turned away from voting at a general election because I was under 21. On polling day at the next general election I was working in Fleetwod, Lancashire, but obtained permission to travel back to London on the Thursday with a colleague on condition I had finished my work, which I had. He stopped to vote in his constituency, a safe seat, but got me to my marginal at 10 pm, where I was turned away by a policeman under the rules that applied then.
    My first vote in a general election was at the age of 28, by which time I was also married, co-owned a house on a mortgage, lived in a three way marginal and was canvassed by the candidates of all three parties.

  • Richard Underhill 23rd Nov '15 - 11:11am

    John Barrett 23rd Nov ’15 – 9:13am people under the age of 18 do pay taxes such as VAT. One Tory Chancellor even put a tax on sweets.

  • No taxation without representation. If you are old enough to pay income tax, you are old enough to vote

    THERE IS NO MINIMUM AGE FOR PAYING INCOME TAX.

    Charlotte Church paid rather a lot of income tax when she was twelve.

    Therefore, according to this logic, as a newborn baby is ‘old enoguh to pay income tax’, everyone should have the vote from birth.

    Yes?

  • Richard Underhill 23rd Nov ’15 – 11:07am…..I recall being turned away from voting at a general election because I was under 21. On polling day at the next general election I was working in Fleetwod, Lancashire, but obtained permission to travel back to London on the Thursday with a colleague on condition I had finished my work, which I had. He stopped to vote in his constituency, a safe seat, but got me to my marginal at 10 pm, where I was turned away by a policeman under the rules that applied then.
    My first vote in a general election was at the age of 28, by which time I was also married, co-owned a house on a mortgage, lived in a three way marginal and was canvassed by the candidates of all three parties……

    Over 7 years between elections?…you must be even older than I….The only such gap, I know of,, was 1935-45…

  • Over 7 years between elections?

    You misread; there were three elections in those seven years, the first of which Mr Underhill was too young to vote in, and the second of which he turned up to the polling station too late.

    I’m not sure what point Mr Underhill is trying to make; whatever the age at which the franchise is granted, there will always be some who just miss the cut-off and therefore don’t vote in elections until much later than their slightly-older peers.

  • Richard Underhill 23rd Nov '15 - 2:03pm

    Dav 23rd Nov ’15 – 11:58am Yes 1966, 1970, February 1974.
    The inclusion of this policy in Tim Clement-Jones’ white paper was partially because at the time we had separate youth and student groups. I remember meeting a group of 16 and 17 year old members at federal conference at the time. They had different political needs from students, who were mainly based around universities.
    Lack of money eventually compelled the youth and student groups to merge. I was told that it is possible to raise money from these groups, provided they are given a goood time. This is another reason why Liberal Democrat politics should be fun.

  • Expats.
    I don’t think 16 year olds are anymore likely to vote the way we want them to than anyone else. I’m only surprised the out campaign aren’t demanding that only 70 plus year old English home owners are allowed to vote and then only if they promise to give them the result they want.

  • Dav 23rd Nov ’15 – 11:58am………….Over 7 years between elections?………….You misread; there were three elections in those seven years, the first of which Mr Underhill was too young to vote in, and the second of which he turned up to the polling station too late…

    Thanks, Dav, I had, of course misread….Apologies to Richard for my ‘tongue in cheek’ post…

    .Glenn 23rd Nov ’15 – 3:59pm……..Expats,.I don’t think 16 year olds are anymore likely to vote the way we want them to than anyone else I’m only surprised the out campaign aren’t demanding that only 70 plus year old English home owners are allowed to vote and then only if they promise to give them the result they want…

    Well they’re on to a loser with this 70+ voter….I’m “IN” through and through…

    BTW blast this limit on posts it ruins ongoing discussions…

  • . I’m only surprised the out campaign aren’t demanding that only 70 plus year old English home owners are allowed to vote and then only if they promise to give them the result they want

    Why does that surprise you? Do you really assume that anyone who disagrees with you must be unprincipled and unscrupulous?

    How very Liberal Democrat.

  • Richard Underhill 24th Nov '15 - 10:13am

    expats 23rd Nov ’15 – 6:34pm Thanks. There was also a gap between 1910 and 1918.

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