Votes for 16-year olds would be wrong
2 May, 2012
There is a head of steam building up in the UK and Ireland on the issue of reducing the minimum voting age for parliamentary elections to 16 or 17 from the current minimum of 18. Even the normally sensible Electoral Reform Society has weighed in behind the proposal. I think it is a very bad idea.
Yes, you can join the army before you are 18. But in the army you are told what to do, and you don’t have a say in how it’s run. In our democratic system, you as a voter have the right to tell the politicians what to do. And quite simply, 99.9% of 16 year olds haven’t a clue as to how to run a country.
Yes, 16-year olds pay taxes: income tax if they have income, and VAT on most stuff they buy. But so do 10-year olds , and we aren’t suggesting that they be allowed to vote.
Ask anybody in their twenties, thirties, forties or older whether their views on politics as a 16-year old were sensible and well-informed and you will find that the universal answer is NO. Many people are frankly embarrassed by the stuff they believed at that age.
I think 18 is the right age to set as the minimum voting age. It is an age of independence for many, when they go to university or start to work. It is the age at which people start to take responsibility for themselves. The legal age for buying alcohol or tobacco is 18.
If we allow votes at 16 or 17, what’s next? Many of the same arguments for votes at 16 can be applied for allowing 14-year olds to vote. Any mandated minimum age is necessarily arbitrary, but we have to have one, and 16 is frankly too low.