The Rambles of Neil Monnery

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On whether (I) the Lib Dems should support votes at 16 or not…

with one comment

Looks a no brainer doesn’t it? After the way the independence referendum jolted younger people into the importance of politics, then there seems no reason for anyone who be against 16 and 17 year-olds being given the vote, certainly for such an important referendum such as the European in/out one that is being planned for 2017. There is one caveat in my mind though, I struggle to believe that we can view young people as adults or as children at the same age depending on what we are discussing.

Can someone at the age of 16 gamble in a betting shop or have an online betting account? No. Yet at the same age they can buy a lottery ticket. What is the difference between gambling on the lottery and gambling on the horses? You can legally marry at 16, can get a driving license at 17 but you still aren’t allowed to go into the local boozer and buy a pint until you are 18. Surely if we trust people to get married and to drive then they should be trusted with regards to booze and tobacco.

I have real issues with the idea that you are an adult at very different ages depending on the circumstance. Also you have to remember that being on the electoral roll and having the right to vote means one big thing that is often overlooked, you become eligible for the jury pool. Are 16 and 17 year-olds ready to try serious cases when justice for the defendant and for victims is on the line? I have been a juror and in a case of multiple counts of sexual assault against a minor, all the younger people on the jury thought he was guilty, quite simply because he looked it. That was pretty worrying. We found him not guilty in the end but their attitude was worrying. An 18 year-old on the jury didn’t care at all and just wanted to go with the majority so she could get home quicker. This is an aspect of votes at 16.

Today if you were a Liberal Democrat member you I presume got sent a link to a petition about getting votes at 16 from Elaine Bagshaw, the text is below along with this link:

Over seven years ago as a member of Liberal Youth I stood outside our Bournemouth Conference in a wedding dress to protest the fact I could marry before voting. Sadly, not enough progress has been made over the last seven years and 16 year olds still can’t have their voices heard through their votes.

This week, our politicians are debating whether to give 16 year olds the right to vote in the European Referendum – a referendum David Cameron has described as “perhaps the most important decision the British people will have to take at the ballot box in our lifetimes”.

If this is the most important vote the British people will have to take, then 16 year olds need to get to vote in it. It’s not right to deny them their voice – especially because 16 year olds can leave school, get married, join the military and become a director of a company.

Liberal Democrats want to allow 16 year olds the right to vote. Will you stand with us and sign our petition to ensure that everyone’s voices can be heard?

Lib Dems petition for votes at 16 link here

I actually agree with Elaine and swiftly put my name to it but it has to be part of a wider look at how we treat young people. They can work full-time and pay tax at 16 but can’t say a say into who gets to choose how to spend that money until they are 18, they are clearly unfair. This whole mish-mash of when we look at people and see them as an adult or a child is just bonkers to me.

It is true that we grow up and very different rates, some 14 year-olds are more adult-like than some 21 year-olds but we can’t put people through individual tests to decide when they are an adult, that would be wrong so we have to find an age where we look at people and say, now you are considered as an adult in all forms, that you are old enough to gamble, to drink, to smoke, to vote, to pay taxes, to be a member of a jury, to have sex, to be tried as an adult. I don’t know what that right age is but I think the current system has such a grey area that it doesn’t help young people or indeed parents.

If that age is at 16 then so be it, if we raised the age when people had to be in full-time education to 17 or 18 then I’d be fine with moving the voting age with that but when push comes to shove, if you can work full-time and be out of education, then as society we are saying that you have the right to go out into the world and make your own way. Part of that process should be the ability to vote. I don’t think this is as slam dunk as many others but for now I think voting age should be linked with the end of forced full-time education and that is why I am for votes at 16 at this current juncture

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Written by neilmonnery

December 14th, 2015 at 4:48 pm

Posted in Politics

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One Response to 'On whether (I) the Lib Dems should support votes at 16 or not…'

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  1. Neil, I agree that the current situation is a mess, but I m not happy with reducing the voting age to 16. At that age there are whole areas of life that people know nothing about. For example at the age of 16 I knew far more about politics (having stuffed envelopes, helped to erect posters boards etc,) then, for example, getting married. I attended a rather monastic boarding school and had not met a girl my own age since I was 10. (Now fortunately we have 5 very talented grand children!) Most people, fortunately do not have that sort of teenage experience, but how many urban 16 year olds understand anything about rural life, or rural teens know about urban life? I don’t want to get bogged down in details, but generally our life experience is fairly narrow before we leave school, but broadens considerably in the following decade. At 16 people have little knowledge and great enthusiasm, that might take them along wrong routes until they have the experience to match. (The youthfulness of volunteers for Daesh is perhaps an example of what I mean.)
    While all political parties need to harness the enthusiasm of youth, I feel that this would be far better done by improving the organisation of their youth wings, than rushing into changes of the voting age.
    And perhaps if we retain the current voting age, but better coordinated with other age limited activities, then we should develop politics as part of the national curriculum teaching why the age limits are as they are,and what you need to understand about politics and government.

    Huw

    14 Dec 15 at 10:09 pm

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