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UK voting age should be lowered to 16

Ailish Herrmann
The British government is depriving adolescents of their right to vote. The future generation has not been given a say in the laws that will affect them, and this has impacted their day to day lives.

The U.K. general elections are approaching, and my family is discussing who they should vote for. I try to add to the conversation, but I am interrupted with remarks like, “Don’t talk about things you do not understand,” or “Wait until you can vote.”

In those moments, I feel disregarded. Sadly, the same sentiment applies to adolescents and our voting rights. Teenagers like me are often given the impression that adults perceive us as ignorant and irresponsible because we cannot vote.

However, my perspective changed during my first year of high school. I noticed that children my age can obtain numerous outstanding achievements, such as winning Olympic medals and leading protests. Additionally, I have seen how many young people are involved in politics and highly informed on current events. Nevertheless, we can only vote once we are 18.

I strongly advocate for lowering the voting age to 16 as teens are affected by laws in which they have no say, and their political knowledge is being undermined.

Teenagers’ political interests are treated as unimportant by denying us the right to vote. Politicians need to address the issues we ask solutions for, such as public education policy, corporal punishment laws and poverty, which significantly impact the young population. It can only be assumed that politicians ignore issues pertaining to young people because they recognize that we lack the power to hold them accountable with our vote.

Furthermore, 16 and 17-year-olds are highly underrepresented in politics. According to The House of Commons Library, the average age of a Member of Parliament has consistently remained around 50 years old since 1979. Consequently, adolescents will have to endure the aftermath of the government’s ignorance. As teenagers, we are the future and must be included in politics so we are prepared to govern when the time comes. Although 18-year-olds can also voice the opinions of the younger generation, we need as many voices as possible to have our desires heard and considered.

I recognize that many believe that people under 18 cannot make wise decisions or will simply be influenced by their parents’ political stances when casting their vote. Nonetheless, individuals are given many important rights when they reach the age of 16 and 17. According to the NSPCC, emancipation, in which a minor is freed from legal control of their parents, is legal for 16-year-olds. It is absurd that the government will grant teenagers as young as 16 the opportunity to change their legal guardian and support themselves, but not give them the standard right to vote.

Additionally, teenagers aged 16 and 17 are expected to navigate and abide by the complexities of the adult legal system, yet, we are not allowed the political participation that voting grants, to voice concerns on these laws. According to the Independent, children as young as 10-years-old can be tried as adults. Our voices are overlooked, even while we are expected to understand laws in which we have no say. It is inconsistent for the government to consider us mature enough to serve time in prison alongside adults with similar sentencing while at the same time claim that we are not ready to vote.

Moreover, this generation and the following generations are more politically aware at a younger age: we have access to endless amounts of information due to online news resources and the widespread prominence of social media platforms. I follow many news accounts on TikTok, such as the New York Times and CNN, which help me stay informed. Nowadays, teenagers no longer have limited exposure to politics due to internet and social media access.

Teenagers are the future of this country, but decisions that will shape our future are being made by generations that will fade away within less than 50 years. Adolescents my age have grown up learning about issues, and these have impacted my political opinions. However, the issues teenagers are currently focused on, such as global warming and LGBTQ+ rights, were not as prominent or given attention from the older generations when they were younger. This highlights the ongoing evolution of political perspectives across different ages. Our future should depend on our decisions, not those of the Baby Boomers and Generation X. By lowering the voting age, the people who are elected will represent a wider variety of perspectives because more voices from more age groups will be reflected.

I encourage you to advocate for 16-year-olds to be allowed to vote by joining protests and continuing to educate ourselves, as adolescents, on current issues. We are the future generation and deserve the right to be heard.

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