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Desperately seeking voters

They are off on a recruitment drive again:

A minister gave a strong hint yesterday that the Government will press ahead with plans to lower the voting age to 16.

David Miliband, the schools minister, told a conference of A-level students that it was illogical to prevent 16-year-olds voting when they were allowed to get married and work at that age.

Do you think he was playing to the gallery at all?

The Electoral Commission is investigating the case for lowering the voting age and several ministers have said they have an open mind…

An ‘open mind’? Is that what they are calling it now? I always thought of it as vast, untamed wilderness situated between their ears, full of tumbleweeds and bleached bones.

The Labour Party has floated the idea in its “Big Conversation” policy document and Lord Falconer, the Lord Chancellor, has called for a debate on this “very important” issue.

Yes, it’s keeping me awake at nights.

The voting age was 21 until it was lowered to 18 as a result of the Representation of the People Act 1969. Most countries have a minimum voting age of 18, although it is 17 in East Timor, Indonesia, North Korea, the Seychelles and the Sudan, 16 in Brazil, Cuba and Nicaragua and 15 in Iran.

North Korea!!? Now there’s a thriving engine of lively democratic values to which we can all aspire. And let us not forget the important contributions to the advance of citizen empowerment being forged in Cuba and Iran. These are the trail-blazers of mankind, Ladies and Gentlemen. Ours is but to give humble thanks for the gifts they have bestowed upon us as we eagerly take up the mantle of their enlightened legacy.

The Electoral Commission will publish its report on the subject towards the end of next month and it is expected that it will support enfranchising 16-year-olds.

Go ahead, make my day because this has got ‘backfire’ written all over it. The teenyboppers will just constitute yet another demographic block that stays away from the voting booths in droves. Either that or they will all earnestly rush to the polls to vote for the BNP. However it pans out, I predict disappointment or disaster or both.

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14 comments to Desperately seeking voters

  • Mashiki

    This is great, I can name all of the democratic advances that have come from N.Korea, Iran and uhhh…Cuba(Canada’s prime vacation destination) on one hand. It begins with ‘d’ too.

    When I was in school, the average 16yr old didn’t understand let alone grasp politics, well most 18yr olds don’t grasp or understand politcs neither do most adults(those over 25 or even 30); as such I can’t see much of a reason behind lowering the age to 16 except to try pushing an agenda to ensure that they remain elected. And we’ve seen that before in several instances, pandering to the illegal vote in various places, or pandering to the minorities to show that they ‘have a heart’ on various issues.

    Bad idea unless someone can give me a good reason otherwise.

  • rc

    Your good 8^) But some of that is because you have such good material to work with. I mean, really, they cited North Korea didn’t they? This stuff writes itself…

  • samkit

    “David Miliband, the schools minister, told a conference of A-level students that it was illogical to prevent 16-year-olds voting when they were allowed to get married and work at that age.”

    so because they can have a and b, they should have c as well? i don’t see the connection. plus i don’t think 16 year olds should be able to get married. work is fine, since they won’t get anything important, which could be screwed up and hurt the country.

  • Ken

    Do 16 year olds also get to move out of their parents’ home at will in Britain?

    “When I was in school, the average 16yr old didn’t understand let alone grasp politics, well most 18yr olds don’t grasp or understand politcs neither do most adults(those over 25 or even 30); as such I can’t see much of a reason behind lowering the age to 16 except to try pushing an agenda to ensure that they remain elected. ”

    It might slightly reduce the proportion of older people voting themselves pensions. Other than that, I don’t see a pressing need for changes here.

  • Rob Read

    I think it highlights the need to have taxation representation. The U.K. second (blocking an scrutiny) chamber should be elected on the basis of 1 GBP of tax paid, one vote.

    This would nicely even out the majoritarians IMHO. for that reason it will never happen!

  • Rob Read

    I think it highlights the need to have taxation representation. The U.K. second (blocking and scrutiny) chamber should be elected on the basis of 1 GBP of tax paid, one vote.

    This would nicely even out the majoritarians IMHO. for that reason it will never happen!

  • Ben

    While I don’t agree with lowering the voting age I can see how the argument comes from 16-year olds being able to work. If they are working and paying taxes then there is a good argument that they should be able to vote. After all, wasn’t there a little war between Britain and America about “taxation without representation”?

  • Adhib

    The New Labour leadership in Britain (and its ex-Stalinist advisors) are old hands at a gag Stalin jokingly entitled the ‘Lenin levy’ – by which an electorate can be diluted with a massive influx of the underinformed, tilting subsequent elections in favour of incumbents who benefit from their position through control of, eg, Party media.

    Stalin did it to reduce the battle-hardened Bolshie element within the official Party to a rump, recruiting hundreds of thousands of unreconstructed bumpkins to support his personality cult. Blair did it with a ‘mail-order’ Party membership drive which netted tens of thousands of non-committal middle class members, docilely casting aspirational votes for his shiny Highgate-Tuscany lifestyle.

    Extending the franchise to pimple-popping youths is a similar dilution of the value and seriousness of the vote. In other circumstances, we might look forward to a more engaged and lively political culture as a consequences of such an extension – eg, if young people had fought for and won this right for themselves. Handing them the vote when it’s the last thing they want looks like desperation. Kids are cruelly alert to such jonny-no-mates behaviour …

    Finally, re comment above, let’s knock this cash-for-votes concept on the head. Poor voter turn-out is a sign of cynicism towards democratic possibilities – bringing wealth into the equation is not exactly likely to help restore public confidence, is it now?

  • Rob Read

    Poor voter turn-out is a vote against more state control IMHO.

  • Rob Read

    It’s not cash for votes it’s tax for votes. Reducing the tax is the only way to reduce representation!

    I think wealth should be brought into the political equation; poverty redistribution is a terrible idea that needs to be highlighted for the real damage it does!

    It also seems very inequitable to force someone to pay vastly more for a service than another person. Especially when the high payer is generally much less likely to need to use these services!

  • limberwulf

    The only benefit I can see to 16 year olds voting is if they are paying taxes. In that case, the voting requirement would be that you actually have tax liability. That would knock out the freeloaders completely, of all ages. It would potentially include some pretty young people, but most 16 year-olds I know that work are more stable than 25 year-olds that dont.

    As for jsut increasing the age with no other reasoning, no thanks. I was pretty dumb at 16 and 18 and 21, and in a few years Ill think I was dumb at the age I am now. Having a good mental state is what is important, and working tends to do that more than anything else I have seen, especially working out of necessity.

  • Bernie Greene

    Some months ago I’m pretty sure I heard of a campaign for “none of the above” to be added to ballot papers. I think this would be worth getting behind. Does anyone know of such a campaign?

    Reducing the voting age is at least in part supposed to increase voter turn out. I think the above proposal would do that in spades.

  • As it happens I think lowering the voting age would probably benefit the Liberal Democrats the most.

    What would happen to the age at which someone can stand for election? Would this be reduced from 21 to 18 as well?

  • Ross

    I expect the Commission to recommend a reduction in the candidacy age from 21 to 18, although I would prefer to see it reduced to 16.

    The most important point to remember in the argument over the voting age is that where society engages its citizens, those citizens should have the right to vote if that society is a democracy. Current age limits suggest that, at 16, we are engaged by society, above all through the imposition of full liability to income tax and the end of compulsory education.

    The argument for universal suffrage has been won: everyone should have the vote and vote should be weighted equally. It is contrary to this principle to impose tests on an arbitrary age group which are not imposed on other people, namely that they have extreme or fanciful views, know nothing about politics, don’t own a house or simply wouldn’t vote.

    These are irrelevant points. We do not deprive people of the right to vote on these bases, as if we did a large number of people would fall short. The electoral system would then cease to be democratic as those people would continue to be governed by votes cast by a group selected by the elite as sufficiently deserving of the privilege of voting. That could never be described as equality of opportunity.

    Fair enough that some people might not like 16 and 17-year-olds, but that group are our fellow citizens and cannot be disenfranchised simply because a majority favour that route.