Fighting for votes at 16

In light of the recent referendum result, as a Young Liberal, I have found this result  disheartening and frustrating. Joining the party at 16 and now being 17, I have not yet been able to exercise my voice and vote in any democratic election aside from the Liberal Democrat leadership election. This matter disappoints me and,  I’m sure,  many other politically passionate 16 and 17 year olds massively.

From a personal perspective I cannot help but feel that there is an enormous need for change to cater for this currently unheard voice in politics. I and many other young people have been active  in the political landscape since the day I joined the party yet feel angry that I am not allowed to exercise my passionate views through a vote.

Young people have shouted louder than ever on the issue of the European Union and I feel unsatisfied and discouraged that David Cameron declined me and other 16 and 17 year olds the right to vote on an issue that has shifted the tectonic plates of British politics more than any other issue in recent times.

It is clear that young people favoured Remain by a landslide yet they did not get the decision they wanted. It could be argued that this is down to a lack of a voice amongst young people, but also the lack of action to energise the base of young people in the United Kingdom and galvanise their opinion on the issues that will affect their everyday lives and also their future.

The Scottish Referendum was a demonstration of 16 and 17 year old young people using their voice and should be further promoted and perused. As previously mentioned The Conservative Party turned down the opportunity for our voice to again be heard in the EU referendum, I feel this choice was an instrumental reason as to why now we are in this cataclysmic situation.

I feel that reform to lower the voting age to 16 should be a key issue to push for through bipartisanship and cross-party reform. Currently it gives me such an optimistic outlook for the future to see my generation stepping up and trying to make their views and voices heard, but this must be aided by those in power. Every party should have the responsibility to try their hardest to touch upon the voice of young people in the UK, discourage apathy and give them the right to vote.

* Jack Haines joined the Liberal Democrats in 2015 at the age of 16 and was elected as a Liberal Democrat Councillor in Hull in 2019. He is a campaigner for Lib Dems for Basic Income @LDforBI.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • This is one of the reasons I joined the party. We’re a party that stands up for the British youth! I want to stand for youth parliament and this is something I want to campaign for!

  • I couldn’t agree more. We cannot argue against lowering the voting age on any serious ground.
    I would like to see the LibDems commit to this policy as part of the next manifesto.

  • It is clear that young people favoured Remain by a landslide yet they did not get the decision they wanted.
    Is it? There is no official breakdown by age group and socio-economic background, just some polls. And from the result it would seem the referendum got out people from areas that haven’t been strong voters in the past and have been largely overlooked by the mainstream political parties and most probably by the pollsters.

    I think the real lesson to be learnt and can be built on now, isn’t from the referendum result, but from the voter registration data, that showed high levels of non-registration by the under 34’s.

    By all mean’s fight for lowering the voting age, but being realistic, I don’t expect it to happen anytime soon, ie. before today’s 16 yo.’s have retired.
    However, doing something about getting more young people engaged in politics and registered is something that can begin today and potentially benefit the LibDems in 2020.

  • it jack haines

  • We cannot argue against lowering the voting age on any serious ground.

    Why to 16, though? Why not 14? 12? 8?

  • Joe Oosthuizen 29th Jun '16 - 7:17pm

    The cold hard facts are the 18-24 age group totally failed to engage at any level with the voting process in the referendum or previously. Changing the age of the voter will have no effect – if a general inclination to vote was evident I would support your proposition. As it stands the following is a list of “stuff” you can only do at 18. Do you support a decrease in the age of consent for the following to be consistent: get a tattoo, buy a firearm, buy alcohol, buy cigarettes, buy fireworks and buy a knife. You have to be 21 to adopt a child.

  • Paul Griffiths 30th Jun '16 - 9:21am

    @Joe Oosthuizen
    The list you provide is irrelevant. Consistency is not required. The varying ages reflect the specific policy aims of the legislation concerned.

  • “Young people have shouted louder than ever on the issue of the European Union”.

    They are indeed shouting loudly AFTER the fact. Remember that the vast majority of young people did not even bother to vote.

  • Anna Pitcher 4th Jul '16 - 1:27pm

    Although I do thoroughly agree with you, and wish that people were allowed to vote at the age of 16, the sad truth is that many don’t care and this have been shown throughout the referendum. Only 35% of young voters voted and I imagine that the number would fall for 16-18 year olds, partially due to the lack of political education at schools. When speaking to people below the age of 18 I’ve honestly been both schocked and disgusted at their ignorance towards politics and I can’t help but think that that might be why (and a good reason why) the voting age shouldn’t be lowered. I do find it a real shame, as there are a lot of politically engaged teens, like yourself, who should be given the right to vote, but I guess the large percentage of non voters really does give youths a bad name.

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