Tag Archives: votes at 16

My first vote and why I’m still #hungry4democracy

I can’t remember if it was February or October 1974 but I do know that it was grey and cold. I was either  6 or 7 and I was walking up Tomatin Road in Inverness heading to Hilton Church Hall where my parents were going to cast their votes. That instilled in me that voting was something that was important to do. I didn’t really understand the issues, but I knew it was important that we were able to choose the Government.

Fast forward a few years to the weeks running up to the 1987 General Election. Although I was away at university at that time, I had decided to have a postal vote as I was keen to vote for Robert Maclennan, the SDP MP for Caithness and Sutherland for whom I had actively campaigned.

As I opened the envelope containing my ballot and, with due solemnity, cast my vote, I reflected that 70 years earlier, I wouldn’t have been able to do so. In fact, even 60 years earlier, I wouldn’t have had that chance. I would have been excluded from the electoral register purely because I was a woman (in 1917) or a young woman with no property (in 1927).  I thought about the women who had fought for my right to vote in different ways. Many had given their lives and liberty and were subjected to appalling treatment by the state as they fought for the right to vote. Their sacrifices made me determined to use my vote on every occasion. I only failed once, but I suspect that both Millicent Fawcett and Emmeline Pankhurst might have approved. I was working in the target seat of Chesterfield and had been there all week. I simply didn’t get a break from door-knocking to enable me to go home and vote. From that point, I have had a postal vote for every election.

On Tuesday, it will be the 100th anniversary of the passage of the Representation of the People Act which gave around 40% of the women in the country, as well as all men over 21, the vote for national elections. That and further extensions of the franchise don’t mean our democracy is in healthy state, though. Our antiquated First Past the Post system doesn’t give people the Parliament they ask for and it is the worst system for equality of  representation between men and women.

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Christine Jardine MP writes…We are simply the temporary guardians of their future

‘No taxation without representation’ was the call to arms which shook Westminster to its very core, and drove the American Revolution.

And yet nearly 250 years later here we are again. In this country today 16 and 17 year olds can pay tax and national insurance, and yet they have no say, no representation in how that money they contribute to the public purse is spent.

They can also get married and join the armed forces, but they cannot vote and have no say in our society’s decisions on their future. Yet, nobody has provided a reasonable explanation as to why. There have been plenty of excuses but no explanations.

It frustrates me because I have witnessed first-hand what a difference it makes to our politics, and what a contrast there is when sixteen and seventeen year olds join the debate.

On the eve of the European elections in May 2014, I spent the evening with a group of my daughter’s friends.

It was her 16th birthday. They knew I was involved in both the European elections and the forthcoming Scottish Independence Referendum campaign and wanted to chat.

The conversations I had that night were some of the most enlightened, challenging and informed of the entire European or Independence referendum campaigns.

At one point, I noticed that even though there was a constant stream of questions a few of the people were also all on their phones.

I was on the brink of being disappointed, when I discovered that they were actually texting other friends who were sending back their own questions to ask.

Imagine that? Young people so desperately keen to understand and be involved in the democratic process.

All of them engaged, all of them informed, all of them keen to make a positive difference and yet none of them entitled to vote the next day.

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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.

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Labour Lords give up on votes at 16 in local elections

Yesterday in the House of Lords, during Parliamentary ping pong on the Cities and Local Government Bill, the Liberal Democrats tried to secure votes at 16. Labour peers, though, didn’t bother to turn up. This is yet another example of them being much more craven than you would expect of an opposition, especially one that thinks itself to be of a more radical hue than Labour has been for a while. This is a policy which was in their manifesto and they should have turned out to support it.

Ever since the tax credits vote in October, Labour peers seem to have got cold feet, allowing themselves to be intimidated by ministers.

Lib Dem peer Paul Tyler was far from impressed, saying:

This no show from Labour means that over a million people will not get a voice in future local elections.

Despite vowing to give 16 year olds the vote in their manifesto the Labour party are now shying away from standing by their policies.

It is clear that Labour do not have the drive or determination to act as the opposition that this country needs.

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Lord Paul Tyler writes…Votes at 16: Labour flunks it again

As soon as it was known that 16 and 17 year old would have a say in the referendum on Scottish independence, I tabled a Bill in the Lords for a comprehensive change in the franchise. I have long believed that there is a strong case for lowering the voting age, in light of the maturity and political awareness of this group, and the many, much rehearsed adult responsibilities they take on. There is a pragmatic argument too, which is simply that creating a seamless link for as many young people as possible between citizenship education in schools, electoral registration in the classroom, and then actual participation at the ballot box, is likely to instil the habit of voting throughout later life.

With the advent of the EU Referendum Bill, I thought that even those who had reservations would surely accept that 16 and 17 year olds who had so successfully been given a say in the 2014 Scottish referendum could not be excluded from the franchise in a referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union.  Labour told us that they agreed.

Our campaign then started out quite well.  With cross-party support for the principle at Committee Stage (when the Lords rarely votes), and then a thumping majority of 82 for the amendment at Report Stage, we were set-fair to force a government rethink. Or so you would think.

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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.

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Updated: Votes at 16: Paul Tyler’s speech in the Lords debate – and Government defeated 293-211

The Liberal Democrat members of the House of Lords have done some fabulous work. It’s not just the tax credits vote recently, but the work they did in very difficult circumstances during the last government to challenge terrible Tory ideas. Add to that their campaigning work in the run up to the General Election and their constant visits to local parties (over 100 since the General Election) to help with the #libdemfightback.

Today is no exception. They are playing a blinder in the EU Referendum Bill debate arguing for votes at 16 and as such showing themselves to be far more in touch with reality than their counterparts on the government benches.

Update: And it worked! The Government was defeated by 293 votes to 211.

Tim Farron commented:

The Liberal Democrats have been fighting for this for decades, and we are winning the argument.

This is a victory for democracy, we will give over a million people a voice on their future.

In Scotland 16 and 17 year olds proved that they have they not only have the knowledge but also the enthusiasm to have a say on their own future. Taking that away now would do them an injustice.

The Government must now listen and act, Cameron cannot turn his back on 1.5 million young adults.

Paul Tyler led for us today and he added:

We cannot deny interested and engaged young adults such an important vote. This is a say in their future, and with Cameron ruling out future referendums, they won’t get a voice for a long time coming.

Today I am proud that we have taken a small step to improve our democracy following a campaign that the Liberal Democrats have led for decades.

Some of the arguments made by Tory peers were beyond ridiculous. Adolescents’ brains were still developing apparently. It’s vaguely reminiscent of the arguments about women’s brain size during debates on votes for women.

It’s up to the Government now to decide whether to keep this in . If it’s removed when the Bill goes back to the Commons, our peers will call a vote to reinstate it. If there is a stalemate, then the bill could be delayed by up to a year.

Here is Paul’s speech in full:

In Committee I thought that one of the most persuasive contributions – made from the Conservative benches opposite – was from the Noble Lord Lord Dobbs:

“ … the question I am struggling with is; How can it be right to allow 16 and 17 year-olds to vote in a referendum on Scotland but not in a referendum on Europe? There has to be some sort of consistency.”

And he rubbished the official explanation that the extension of the franchise in the Scottish independence referendum did not originate with Conservative Ministers: “… although the coalition Government and the Prime Minister did not specifically approve votes for 16 year-olds, they did acquiesce in votes for 16 year-olds.”

He and others – notably an increasing number of Conservative MPs – have warned that we cannot pretend that Scottish young people are somehow more mature, well-informed and capable of exercising common-sense than their English, Welsh and Northern Irish counterparts. I dare the Minister to repeat that absurdity.

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Votes at 16: Jonathan Court: 16 and 17 year olds are affected by Governments – we should have a say

Ahead of tonight’s vote in the House of Lords on giving 16 and 17 year olds the vote in the EU Referendum, Liberal Youth member Jonathan Court, who’s 17, explains why the issue is so important to him.

I missed the 2015 election by 15 months. Though all my friends around me could vote in the last election, I was stuck without a say. During the campaign I listened to debates, campaigned with other locals and met numerous politicians like Sadiq Khan and Nick Clegg.

16 and 17 year olds aren’t stereotypical drug-taking layabouts that have no interest in the things around them. Things like the education maintenance cuts, tuition fees rise and proposed child tax credit cuts really permeate into people’s discussions. 16 and 17 year olds aren’t stereotypical hard-left extremists either, however they are concerned about public funding cuts that affect them. And why shouldn’t they be? Everyone votes in their interest but young-disenfranchised people without a vote are being squashed by the baby boomers that can vote in their droves. Young people are being continuously robbed of responsibilities by this government, a mixture of cuts in grants to those who go to sixth forms while raising the school leaving age has left too many in limbo.

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Votes at 16: Isabelle Cherry: It’s our future, too

Ahead of the Lords vote on allowing 16 and 17 year olds the vote in the EU Referendum, Liberal Youth member Isabelle Cherry, who’s 17, says why this is so important to her.

A 16 year old says: “I think we should remain in the EU because membership gives us a say on how trading rules are set up”, to which a 46 year old replies: “you don’t know what you’re talking about because you’re 16”. If the 16 year old’s argument was said by an older member of the community, the point would be scrutinised and debated, and ultimately taken seriously. Does who the person is validate, or in this case, invalidate their argument?

There would obviously, and quite rightly, be outcries of blatant discrimination if the 46 year old’s response was “you don’t know what you’re talking about because you’re a woman” or “because you’re black”. How come it is acceptable to reject the argument of the 16 year old on the grounds of their age, as opposed to the credibility of what they’re saying?

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Votes at 16 LibLink Special: Tim Farron: If you are old enough to fight, you are old enough to vote

Ahead of the crucial Lords vote this afternoon, Tim Farron has written for the Telegraph about why giving 16 and 17 year olds the vote in the EU Referendum is so important:

He points out the logical flaws in the Government’s stance:

It is striking that the same people who argue people that generations of Brits “haven’t had a say” on the EU are now opposed to giving 16 year olds the right to vote. They seem to want democracy, but only the kind they like – or think will get the result they want.

Sixteen and seventeen year olds will have to live with the consequences of this huge decision for many years to come and to not give them a say, is simply, anti-democratic. This is why I support increasing the franchise.

He highlights the success of the Scottish precedent:

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William Wallace writes…Liberal Democrats will fight for votes at 16 and balanced EU referendum rules

The EU Referendum, Sir William Cash declared during the passage of the Bill providing for it through the Commons, is of fundamental importance to the future of this country over the next generation and more.That is why Liberal Democrats have been arguing, regardless of the broader issue of lowering the voting age, that on this occasion 16- and 17-year-olds should be allowed to vote. We agree with Eurosceptics like Bill Cash that this is a vital, long-term decision; so those that have the longest stake in the future of this country should not be denied a say.

The Bill has now passed through the Commons, and has its second reading in the Lords today. Liberal Democrats will be putting down amendments on a number of issues in addition to votes at sixteen. We support extending the franchise for the referendum to UK citizens who have been living and working elsewhere within the EU for more than 15 years, which is the current cut-off for non-resident voters. We will also be putting down an amendment to allow EU citizens who have become long-term residents within the UK to vote in the referendum; they already have the right to vote in local and European elections here, so in many cases are already on the register.

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Lib Dem Lords fight for votes at 16 in Council elections

The Liberal Democrat campaign for votes at 16 enters a new stage today as the Lords debates the Cities Bill. Liberal Democrat Paul Tyler has put down an amendment which would enable 16 and 17 year olds to vote in Council elections in England and Wales.

Labour have said that they will support Paul’s amendment. If it passes, it will then be up to David Cameron’s Conservative MPs to overturn it. I suspect that they will have no problem doing that given that young people are hardly top of their list of priorities at the moment. However, you don’t need many Tory rebels to threaten the Government’s majority. The only thing is that you would need the SNP to vote in order to defeat the Government in the Commons. If the SNP does vote on this entirely English and Welsh matter, you would be less likely to get the Tory rebels. The chances of it becoming law therefore seem slim at this stage.

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Opinion: We need votes at 16 for the EU referendum

I’ve recently become increasingly aware of some of the comments passed by the Tories and UKIP regarding the minimum voting age on the upcoming EU Referendum, which seems likely to be set at 18. They’re quite worrying to say the least.

John Redwood, Conservative MP for Wokingham, accused 16-year-olds and 17-year-olds of not being interested in voting and critics of trying to hijack the referendum by suggesting that they should receive suffrage, whilst numerous UKIP politicians have argued that we have been close to “brainwashed” through the education system by the Liberal Democrats in particular.

Speaking as a young person, I feel that these comments are hugely belittling and insulting. I would have hoped that the active participation of young people in last year’s debate in the run-up to the Scottish Referendum would have proved that we are more than capable of fairly assessing political situations and choosing for ourselves what will be best for our own future.

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Alistair Carmichael moves order giving power for votes at 16 to Holyrood

I can’t imagine Alistair Carmichael will have been much prouder in his political life than he was that night when he stood at the Despatch Box in the House of Commons and gave the Scottish Parliament the power to do something that he’s wanted to see for many years – give the vote to 16 and 17 year olds.

He said:

On 18 September last year, the people of Scotland, including tens of thousands of 16 and 17-year-olds, voted in the Scottish independence referendum, and made the historic decision to remain a part of the United Kingdom. The participation of our young people in the vote was truly historic and inspirational to witness. We saw the young people who took part in the referendum in great numbers listen to the arguments, frequently ask the toughest questions, and make up their own minds in a mature and reasoned way. They showed that they were more than capable of being a part of Scottish democracy when they helped their country take the biggest decision we have faced for centuries.

Evidence suggests that, having listened to the arguments and participated in the debate, 16 and 17-year-olds voted in the same way as the population of Scotland as a whole—to maintain Scotland’s position in our family of nations. This is, of course, welcome in itself, but it also puts paid to the notion that those who are old enough to marry and have children are not old enough to weigh up the issues and decide how to cast a vote. It demonstrated the desire to be involved in an event that would shape the future of the country, and it demonstrated to us all that when people understand the issue before them, hear the arguments and know the facts, they want to use their democratic right to make a difference.

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16 and 17 year olds in England and Wales have every right to be disappointed

This week the Scottish Parliament and Westminster both pass a Section 30 Order. Section 30 is the bit of the Scotland Act 1998 which allows powers to be given from Westminster to Holyrood. Two years ago a Section 30 Order gave the Scottish Government the power to hold the referendum on independence. This week’s transfers the power to the Scottish Parliament to give 16 and 17 year olds the vote in the next Holyrood elections which take place in May 2016. It will have to be confirmed by the Privy Council in March but that’s just a formality.

This means that young people in Scotland will have a say on the way their health, education, transport, justice and housing systems are run. We know that giving young people the vote was a massive success in the referendum. My heart swelled up seeing them head into the polling station with real excitement and pride on 18th September. There is surely no excuse for denying them the say at any level. Scottish 16 and 17 year olds will be able to vote at Holyrood and local elections – but when it comes to Westminster, they will have no say. Of course this could all change if the next Parliament legislates. They surely can have no excuse to delay.

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Paul Tyler writes… Voter engagement and Votes at 16: progress!

Today, the House of Commons Political and Constitutional Reform Select Committee is doing something I don’t recall any other Committee doing before it. It is publishing a report in draft, and asking for public feedback before making final recommendations.

In announcing this initiative Graham Allen, the Committee’s Chair, writes, “we raise issues around re-building our political parties, their funding, conduct of MPs, how the Media can work to improve public involvement, and how we can restore a sense of excite around our democracy”. These are all clearly crucial issues for Liberal Democrats.

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Let’s get some action on votes at 16

As I said on Friday, one of the best sights of the Independence Referendum was seeing enthusiastic 16 and 17 year olds heading to vote. They were so engaged in the process and it seems so unfair to take it from them now. Votes at 16 has been our party policy for a long time. It was our Secretary of State for Scotland Michael Moore who, along with Nicola Sturgeon, made it happen for the Referendum. It may not be practical to implement before next May, but we should at least try to get legislation passed this Parliament if we can.

Funnily enough, there is a Bill being debated in the House of Lords, a Private Members Bill brought in by our Paul Tyler. It was introduced on his behalf by Alison Suttie in June. It needs the Government to give up some time for it. This is something that we could make happen.

Unsurprsingly, Alistair Carmichael says it’s a matter of when, not if, 16 year olds get the vote:

The energy and enthusiasm of young people in the referendum campaign is something of which Scotland should be proud.

I have always believed that young people are much more politically engaged than they are given credit for. Never has that been clearer than during the referendum campaign. One of the most active volunteers for Better Together Orkney was in fact fifteen year old Jack Norquoy of Birsay.  Jack spoke at a packed meeting in Kirkwall Town Hall alongside Shirley Williams.  He made a powerful and compelling case for what he believed in.

Our young voters were given the opportunity and seized it with both hands. I believe that it is now only a matter of time until we see votes at 16 rolled out across the UK. That time should be now.

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Opinion: Compulsory political education?

Ballot boxAs a 17 year old Lib Dem, who has campaigned with two local parties and experienced my first election campaign last May, lowering the voting age is obviously of real importance to me. The party’s long term support of this policy (as well as its unique opportunities for young people) were key factors in my choosing to join the party, aged just 16, last year.

The issue is about to see a bump in publicity via the Scottish Referendum next month, and with the general election approaching there’s the real potential that any government involving Labour or the Lib Dems (or both) will legislate for the change post-May. Labour have recently adopted the policy, and supporters of the campaign “Votes at 16” include Liberty, The Co-Op, Barnardo’s and the Electoral Reform Society.

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Caroline Pidgeon writes… Power to the people – why conference paper has my backing

Last July I wrote a piece for Lib Dem Voice about devolving powers to London and other large cities. My article was drawing attention to a report published last summer called Raising the Capital (pdf). This report had been produced by the London Finance Commission, an authoritative and wide ranging group of experts from both inside and outside politics, and crucially including experts from Birmingham and Manchester and chaired by the highly respected Professor Travers of the London School of Economics.

The report highlighted that barely seven per cent of all the tax paid by …

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LibLink…Stephen Williams MP: The time has come for votes at 16

On Saturday, Hannah Bettsworth and Jenny Marr of Liberal Youth Scotland encouraged us all to lobby our MPs to vote for a motion tabled by Liberal Democrat MP for Bristol West Stephen Williams calling for the voting age to be reduced at 16.

Stephen himself has now written a post on his own blog outlining why this issue is so important to him.

I have long believed that 16 year olds are mature enough to vote, if they want to. Years of experience of talking and listening to sixth form and college students has convinced me that enough of them have the

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Opinion: Lobby MPs on votes at 16 ahead of Commons debate this week

Liberal Youth Votes at 16 banner

Stephen Williams MP has recently brought forward a motion about extending the franchise to 16 and 17 year olds: this means that the House of Commons will debate the issue on 24th January. In 2005 his motion on the topic failed by just 8 votes. As such, it’s exceedingly important that as many MPs who support votes at 16 attend the debate and vote if possible.

Liberal Youth Scotland has been strongly pushing for votes at 16 for all referendums and elections this …

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Opinion: Votes at 16 – let’s follow the Isle of Man’s example

It is great news to hear that, after extending the franchise to 16 year olds in 2006, the Isle of Man is going to the polls today – and for the first time including 16 & 17 year olds!

However, (and it seems almost always) we are rather slow in enriching our democracy, whether it be changing the voting system, reforming the House of Lords, or extending the franchise to 16 & 17 year olds.

It is something both Liberal Youth & the British Youth Council have campaigned hard for. Even our Leader, Nick Clegg, who holds special responsibility for …

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