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Students add their Voices to Growing Call to Lower Voting Age to 16

Bringing the younger generation into politics and giving them a say in the outcome of elections has always been an issue that was no stranger to debate.

As a core partner of the Votes at 16 Coalition, members of the National Union of Students (NUS) UK held a one hour meeting with MPs at a lobby and parliamentary debate at Portcullis House yesterday. The Electoral Administration Bill currently passing through Parliament could change the law so that 16 and 17 year olds can vote in public elections.

If successful, young people could take part in elections for local councillors, Members of Parliament and even the Mayor of London. While there are no specific stated reasons that can explain the current minimum voting age of 18, there are examples to support the view that since younger people in our society bear many responsible positions, they cannot be treated as immature when it comes to selecting their policy makers and the governments that represent them.

Support by the NUS

The NUS currently represents 5.2 million students, over half of which attend Further Education colleges or sixth forms. The Votes at 16 campaign forms part of a longer term goal from the NUS to get more students involved in democracy. Their new campaign: “Participate: Actions speak louder than words”, has been encouraging students to register in time for local council elections in May and aims to get more students involved in politics at Students” Union level, from standing for election to voting on key issues.

NUS Vice President, Further Education, Ellie Russell, who recently turned 18, said: “I was extremely frustrated not to be able to have my say in the last general election, particularly when so many of the election policies had a direct influence on my life and future. Politicians are always criticising the disengagement amongst young people today but how can we feel part of a process that we cant have a direct impact on?

“The arguments against allowing younger people to vote are the same ones used by those who sought to exclude women from the vote. I hope our work will see MPs turn their thoughts into actions by voting for the Electoral Reform Bill and giving young people the chance to use their voice,” she concluded.

Many 16 and 17 year olds are in education, have jobs, are parents and pay taxes, yet when it really matters they cannot have their say over what happens in the communities and society they live in. Thus, it becomes all the more necessary that we begin to trust this vital part of society and see in them the capabilities of being potential future lawmakers.

Aakriti Kaushik, International Education Correspondent

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