Force young people to vote at first opportunity, says think tank

A woman passes a polling station The IPPR argues that young people, who are less likely to vote, have been hit hardest by spending cuts

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Young people should be required to turn out at the first election in which they have the right to vote, the IPPR think tank has said.

The plans, to be set out in a forthcoming report, involve a small fine for young people deciding not to vote at their first election.

They would also offer first-time voters who did not back any political party a "none of the above" option.

Labour is reportedly considering whether to back the idea.

Shadow lord chancellor Sadiq Khan has also said his party might propose lowering the voting age from 18 to 16.

IPPR researchers found that the UK has one of the largest differences in voter turnout between young and old people in Europe.

In 2013 local elections, an estimated 32% of 18- to 24-year-olds voted, compared with 72% of those aged over 65, the think tank said.

It also estimated that turnout for under-35s earning less than £10,000 a year was just 34%, whereas turnout for over-55s with an income of at least £40,000 a year was 79%.

'Vicious cycle'

According to the IPPR's figures, young people have been hit hardest by public spending cuts, with 16- to 24-year-olds facing cuts to services worth 28% of their annual household income, compared with 10% of the income of those aged 55-74.

Start Quote

It could well help to reinvigorate democracy”

End Quote Sarah Birch Politics professor at Glasgow University

Guy Lodge, an associate director at the think tank, said: "Unequal turnout matters because it gives older and more affluent voters disproportionate influence at the ballot box.

"Turnout rates among the young have fallen significantly which means there is less incentive for politicians to pay attention to them.

"Young people who don't vote today are less likely than previous generations to develop the habit of voting as they get older, which is why first time compulsory voting is so important."

The result was a "vicious cycle of disaffection and under-representation" in which, he said, "As policy becomes less responsive to their interests, more and more decide that politics has little to say to them."

Report co-author Sarah Birch, a politics professor at the University of Glasgow, added: "There are many other things that young people are required to do, not the least of which is go to school.

"Adding just one more small task to this list would not represent an undue burden, and it could well help to reinvigorate democracy.

"It would make politicians target first-time voters like never before and give young voters the potential for far greater political power."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 150.

    'Labour is reportedly considering whether to back the idea.'

    In other words, and this applies to all parties nowadays, they'll see whether the idea is received positively and then decide whether to make it policy or not.

    Remember when politicians made up their own mind and stood on a platform of policies that they believed in? Maybe this is why voter apathy among all age groups is widespread.

  • rate this

    Comment number 149.

    Instead of forcing the vote why don't we just elect Robert Mugabe now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 148.

    A people's power putsch is in order, maybe a "British Spring" without the violence of course.

  • rate this

    Comment number 147.

    Daft idea from clueless Labs. Fines imply some appeal process. I was sick, I was out of town. What if your first election is councils or Euros or Welsh assembly? Non Brits vote at those. Irish, Maltese and Cypriots can vote in general elections but are they to be fined too? Connecting your first vote with punishment is a stupid idea. Labs are without a single new idea so they embrace this rubbish.

  • rate this

    Comment number 146.

    The Political CLOWNS need to wake up. Why vote when businesses and banks turn out to be pulling the strings, with trillions in the shadow economy? Successive govts destroyed the value of savings, made average accommodation unaffordable, and lumbered the young with huge debts. Now they would force a captive workforce to VOTE FOR THEM?! The only remaining protest option is not to vote.

  • rate this

    Comment number 145.

    Since you can't get a fag paper between any of the major parties why should anyone be forced to vote ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 144.

    Horses to water, I think. Is the next step to check how they vote? Better that everyone is made clear the importance of voting and leave them to get on with it. Compulsory voting just sounds ridiculous in a democracy. There should of course always be an abstention option on any vote and then all opinions can be captured.

  • rate this

    Comment number 143.

    I used to vote. It is important to do so. I don't always vote now - because I will not vote for someone I don't approve of.
    When I did, though, I'm glad I was never forced to.

    And what if you forget/are busy elsewhere/ill, etc? You get fined, and you're young and poor? Not a good introduction to democracy, is it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 142.

    Let see what happens at the European elections when the majority voted in will be UKIP. They will say that they have the mandate of the people...but do they really or is it that no one really trust the old guard that doesn't listen, does it own thing and steps on the very people that put them in to power in the first place?

  • rate this

    Comment number 141.

    More independent MPs required
    It's embarrassing listening to some of them trying to toe the party line.
    It's me they are supposed to be working for, not The Party.

  • rate this

    Comment number 140.

    Compulsory voting MUST have a 'none of the above' option. Abstention is always a right, and it is not the same thing as apathy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 139.

    This would seriously dilute the old fart vote.

  • rate this

    Comment number 138.

    We voted for our local MP who said he was going to get some land turned into a centrepark for kids, so we voted. When he got in, nothing happened-then we ended up with 120 houses built on the land. I live in a village with 7000 other people, 3 pubs, 4 shops(2 vacant), and a coop. Nothing for the kids. Drink and drugs is all you get around this way.

  • rate this

    Comment number 137.

    Just another example of the lefties trying to fix the vote. If Labour and the LibDems are not willing to equalise MP constituency sizes to stop Labour having its completely undemocratic and massive present advantage, then I am not willing to support this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 136.

    Voting should be compulsory for all of voting age - even if, in the absence of decent candidates, we just go to spoil our vote. Other countries manage this, why not us?

  • rate this

    Comment number 135.

    If you are not considered old enough to join the army until you are 18 why would you be old enough (if the voting age is reduced) to vote for someone to send people to war?

  • rate this

    Comment number 134.

    This is a waste of time because who is going to take millions to court to collect the 'fines'? It's unenforceable The education system needs a complete overhaul to determine why we turn out children who are not working (hence 3 million immigrants in 10 years, most of whom ARE working) and not interested in politics.

  • rate this

    Comment number 133.

    "Unequal turnout matters because it gives older & more affluent voters disproportionate influence at the ballot box."

    How does this work out when politicians totally disregard the electorate & do what the banks & corporations want. People in Britain are not represented in parliament today. Trouble is politicians need to maintain the illusion of democratic choice. The reality is there 'aint any.

  • rate this

    Comment number 132.

    Personally I think that all should be required to if you choose to spoil your paper or vote for a loon that's okay, but at least you turned up. But a small number voting in a Majority has no checks and balance. Who is to really it the politicos that don't listen, have no real world experience, morally and mental corrupt & line there own pockets or those that put them there?

  • rate this

    Comment number 131.

    I actually have no problem with compulsory voting - if you can't even be bothered to put a cross in a box then you don't deserve your democratic right.
    My problem lines in the system which means that a party with 40% of the vote gets power when 60% didn't want them. PR is essential for all people to feel that their voice has been heard and is represented in parliament.


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