Elections 2021: Teenage Welsh voters' hopes for historic first vote

By BBC Radio 5 live
Naga Munchetty programme

Published
image captionYoung people aged 16 and 17 will have the right to vote for the first time in the Welsh Parliament election in May

Teenagers aged 16 and 17 in Wales have, for the first time, the right to vote in the Welsh parliamentary election.

About 70,000 16 and 17-year-olds are eligible to vote but just days before the registration deadline fewer than 9,000 in six counties had signed up to do so, figures gathered by the Election Reform Society (ERS) suggested.

But for the politcally engaged, Thursday 6 May cannot come soon enough.

BBC Radio 5 Live has been speaking to some of those first-timers to find out what issues matter most to them - and how it feels to make history.

'I've been waiting to vote since I was 11 years old'

image captionSelina became interested in politics during the Brexit vote

Selina, aged 17, from Swansea, thinks the education system is outdated and doesn't inspire young people to care about politics.

She says, rather than teaching about Henry VIII, schools should be "teaching young people about the world they're growing up in, and how to use their vote".

She first became interested in politics when she was 11 years old after hearing her parents talking about Brexit.

The biggest issues for her now are education, climate change and the NHS and she'll be voting for Plaid Cymru because she thinks "they can really do what's best for Wales".

"I don't think Wales has fulfilled its potential because of who is in charge," she says.

'I haven't made a balanced judgement yet'

image captionEshaan says voting in the Welsh elections is very important to him

Eshaan, aged 17, from Cardiff, is "leaning" towards Conservatives, but not fully decided yet.

As a member of the Cardiff Youth Council and a former history student, he says the vote is very important to him and he has been taking his research seriously.

"As a person who did GCSE history, I learned you have to look at a variety of different sources to make a balanced judgement," he says.

He is considering voting Conservative because of their "build back better" pledge.

"I believe that, by voting Conservative, maybe the Welsh Conservatives and the UK Conservative government will have a bit more of a connection and there will be more unison," he adds.

Climate change matters to him, and he thinks it's bizarre that Greta Thunberg could address the UN on the subject at a time when she couldn't vote on it.

'I want to be prime minister one day'

image captionCian thinks voting is "a massive responsibility"

Cian, aged 16, from Merthyr Tydfil, is studying public services and wants to one day be prime minister.

He ran for youth mayor a few times and has been involved in student politics throughout school.

Voters in Wales get two ballots - one for a person to be their constituency Member of the Senedd (MS), and the other for their region.

Cian thinks he will vote Conservative in the region and Labour locally.

He says he is also interested in the Reform UK party, which wants to end lockdowns, and the Abolish the Welsh Assembly party, which wants to return power to the UK government.

"Voting is a massive responsibility," he adds. "We are the next generation of voters and we now get the opportunity to say what we want."

He says the key issues for him are "job opportunities, education and transportation".

'Covid has allowed Wales to get out there'

image captionHollie thinks the pandemic has helped people realise how much power Wales has as a devolved country

Hollie, aged 17, from Pontlottyn, is an undecided voter but leaning towards Labour because she thinks the party's candidates engage more with young people.

"Their policies on education - especially in times of hardship like with Covid now - really stand out to me and they can really make a difference," she says.

She has also been impressed with how Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford has handled the pandemic.

"The situation with Covid has actually allowed Wales as a country to get themselves out there," she says.

"A lot of people didn't know we were a devolved government and didn't actually know the power that we had to be able to control the country, rather than just following the rules that come from Westminster."

'We can have a green voice at the table'

image captionOscar thinks the young person vote will give the Green party a "voice at the table"

Oscar, aged 18, from Cardiff, is "excited but nervous" about voting for the first time.

"I feel like I might accidentally mess it up," he says.

He will be voting for the Green party in the regional election.

"Young people coming out in force and voting for the Greens in the regional vote means we can have a Green voice at the table," he says.

"I do think Wales needs to be putting more concrete policies in place for the climate crisis."

'Wherever you're from, this pandemic has hit you'

image captionAnna cares about mental health, education and the environment

Anna, aged 17, is from Cowbridge and will be voting for the Liberal Democrats. Her mum is also a Lib Dem candidate.

Education and the environment are priorities for her, along with mental health "because wherever you're from, this pandemic has hit you".

She's voting for the Lib Dems because they have "specifically made a manifesto for the youth in Wales".

She says it's "huge" that people her age are able to vote, especially after everything that's happened in the past year.

"Moving forward, it's all about sticking together now - and taking action which unites rather than divides," she says.