Voting should be allowed at 16, say youth campaigners

Students at Hylands School and Sixth Form College
Students at Hylands School and Sixth Form College in Essex

Sixteen and 17-year-olds should be allowed to vote in UK elections, say youth campaigners.

It follows calls from the Welsh government to lower the voting age.

At the moment you can join the armed forces, get married and pay taxes at 16.

The British Youth Council (BYC) believes people from that age should also get to influence decisions that affect their lives.

As part of our week-long series looking at why so few under-25 year-olds engage with politics, Newsbeat went to Hylands School and Sixth Form College in Essex.

Priorities

In the last general election in 2010, fewer than half of all 18 to 24-year-olds voted, which was much lower than the national average.

That didn't seem to put students off in Essex.

"We're the ones who are going to grow up into this society so why don't we get the chance to vote?" says 17-year-old Victoria Ovel.

"If I work I have to pay National Insurance but I don't get a say on how much I should pay."

At Westminster, they've been discussing the issue for years, but they've made little progress.

In one debate, it was argued that many 16 and 17-year-olds are only "semi-educated - and, indeed, sometimes under-educated" and therefore can't be trusted to vote.

When asked what they were looking forward to when they turned 18, the group of sixth formers in Chelmsford didn't immediately think of voting.

The first three answers were going clubbing, going to university and moving away from home.

Not one of the group mentioned the right to vote at an election but most thought they should have the choice earlier.

'Going out'

Eighteen-year-old Rhammel Afflick represents the BYC.

He says: "There are so many young people who are affected by the decisions politicians make on things like public transport and tuition fees."

Katherine Fisher
Katherine doesn't think many people her age would take voting seriously

But Katherine Fisher, 17, says: "I think if everyone our age started voting many wouldn't take it seriously.

"Not everyone knows enough about what's going on, often because we don't want to.

"We've got other stuff like exams and going out."

Rhammel responds: "I get that point but then there are some people over 18 who don't know enough about politics and don't know how to use their vote."

If you live in other parts of Europe like Germany and Austria you can vote in some elections at 16.

The Scottish government wants to allow people from 16 to take part in a referendum on whether the Scotland should leave the UK.

It believes younger people may be more likely to vote for Scottish independence.

Read: Young 'don't trust' politicians, new research suggests