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.

If 16 and 17 year olds had the vote we wouldn’t start the next revolution but we’d see politicians finally just a little more accountable for their decisions.

16 year olds can leave school and start to make their own way in the world. In Scotland they can marry without their parents’ permission. These young adults are affected by government decisions and are often independent from their parents. It’s pretty clear that to expect them to make their own way whilst not giving them a say in who governs them is unfair.It’s about time the political agenda changed to more fairly reflect the views of young people. Getting them engaged early and establishing a pattern of voting is important.

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  • The thing that is hilarious about these is that they seek to portray ‘young people’ (ie, children aged sixteen and seventeen) as a ‘group’ that is ‘disenfranchised’.

    And that this group has ‘interests’ which they have the right to advance democratically, which are currently being ignored because they cannot vote.

    But this is a ‘group’ every single member of which will not be in the group any more within twenty-four months.

    To put it another way: every two years, the ‘group’ which is currently being ignored is a completely different set of people.

    And everyone who was in the group is now in another group, whose opinions are currently being listened to.

    How, then, is it at all sensible to attempt to portray ‘young people’ as a group? In what ways is it reasonable to assume that the sixteen-year-old of 2014 will necessarily share any interests with the sixteen-year-old of 2016, or the sixteen-year-old of 2018?

    And yet that is what we are being asked to believe by those who advocate this nonsensical constitutional change: that there is some mythical thing which unites all these sixteen-year-olds across the years, something which, magically, ceases to unite them as soon as they hit their eighteenth birthday.

    This makes no sense. If anyone were looking for a reason to deny votes to sixteen-year-olds, the fact that they advance such ludicrous arguments for it, which (one can only hope) they will in a couple of years look back on and wonder how they could have written such tosh, would be it.

  • This may not be relevant to the Europe debate but it is a clear example of an interest that you say can’t exist

    Did you read what I wrote?

    I didn’t say that the interest doesn’t exist; I just said that ‘having to wait two more years before you can vote’ is not the same as ‘being disenfranchised’.

    What is nonsensical is that idea that children aged sixteen and seventeen somehow form a coherent ‘group’ that has interests distinct from, say, those aged eighteen and nineteen.

    Which makes no sense because the people who are eighteen and nineteen now were sixteen and seventeen just two years ago. Have their interests really changed that much in just two years? Clearly not. So were they ‘disenfranchised’? Clearly, again, not, as they can now vote for those interests, the same ones they had when they were sixteen and seventeen.

    So if you read, you would have seen that my point isn’t that the young don’t have interests; it is that there are no interests specific to sixteen and seventeen-year-olds as a group that are not already being represented by those who were until recently sixteen and seventeen, and which will be represented in just a couple of years by those who are sixteen and seventeen now.

    ‘Disenfranchised’ means to be denied the vote because of who you are. It does not mean having to be patient for two more years because of how old you happen to be right now.

    Whatever the line is drawn, there will always be those who fall just on the wrong side of it, who have to see their friends vote because they were born one day too late. That would be just as true if the voting age were sixteen, or twenty-one, so sob stories of this kind are no reason to make a constitutional change.

  • (I also note that at least some of those ‘baby boomers’ complained about by the writer were ‘disenfranchised’ until they were twenty-one; it doesn’t seem to have done them any harm. And presumably in forty years or so Mr Court will be part of a cohort being complained about by whoever just missed the 2055 general election. The wheel turns.)

  • Two years is the blink of an eye. Think of what you were doing two years ago, Mr Otten. Was it really that long ago? is it really so horrific to have to wait just that long?

  • Morwen Millson 18th Nov '15 - 9:38pm

    The point of allowing 16 and 17 year olds to vote in the European Referendum is that the decision to leave Eaurope would affect young people for their whole lives., not just for one or two years. So yes Dav – it makes a huge difference!

  • The point of allowing 16 and 17 year olds to vote in the European Referendum is that the decision to leave Eaurope would affect young people for their whole lives., not just for one or two years

    And it will affect fourteen- and fifteen-year-olds their whole lives too. Should we let them vote in it? If not, why not? What about eight-year-olds?

  • Jonathan, please could you look at my response to Isabelle? I agree with you even though I’ m a baby boomer but it’s too tiring to repeat myself. Good luck.

  • People who were unable to vote at the age of 17 in 2015 will have to wait until the age of 22 before they can vote for the first time in a general election. I think it’s perfectly fair to allow 17 year olds, who would be mere months away from being old enough to vote, to exercise a democratic right to vote in elections.

    If that means that 8 year olds deserve the vote to you, Dav, so be it, but all I’m arguing is that 16 is no less suitable as a legal voting age than 18. I think that it would also make more sense to talk about a 16-24 group of young adults, as 16-17 year olds have more in common with 18 year olds than children.

    All of this is beside the point, though. My personal view is that any inclusion in the diplomatic process is good, and there are plenty of young people who want to be able to vote at 16. I think we ought to let them.

  • all I’m arguing is that 16 is no less suitable as a legal voting age than 18

    And what I’m pointing out is that nobody has given any reason why 16 is any more suitable than 18 that stands up to even a moment’s scrutiny, and when it comes to the constitution you should stick with the status quo unless that status quo is obviously unacceptably broken, because if you make changes there will always be unintended and unforeseen consequences.

  • (As you Lib Dems have just found out, with the unintended consequence of your constitutional change enabling a tiny minority of the party to call a special conference.)

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