BIG DEBATE: Should 16 Year olds be Allowed to Vote?

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NO- Sarah Clifford

Nobody could sensibly argue that 16 year olds aren’t smart or mature enough to vote, but just because a large number of sixteen year olds could become ready to vote, doesn’t mean that they should.

One might argue that giving sixteen year olds the right to vote doesn’t take away their freedom from responsibility because voting isn’t compulsory, and you would be absolutely right, but give every sixteen year old in the country the right to vote…and every school in the country will start discussing politics in lessons and assemblies. All of a sudden, that childhood naivety that we are all constantly trying to get back, is gone at an even younger age.

For those individuals that do want to get involved, there are already means for them to do this. County councils across England have introduced Youth Forums in the last 10 years, in which young people who want to have their say can get involved with the local council to help bring about the changes that they want to see, and to get the governing bodies in touch with the young lives they are affecting.

Finally, we all know politicians are manipulative characters no matter how charismatic Boris is. A sixteen year old mind is even more susceptible to their propaganda. This in no way is an issue of their intelligence either; at sixteen we are all susceptible to the admirable desire to do good and make a difference in the world. Take the KONY campaign of 2012 that used Facebook to rile up teenagers. Adolescents all over the country wanted to wonder off into cities in the middle of the night (much to their parents’ alarm) to #stopKONY and save the ‘Invisible children’. But the campaign, although well meant, was completely misinformed. In the least derogatory way possible, not lowering the voting age is in the interest of responsible voting. The difference in your mentality between when you are 16 and when you are 18 is enormous because you have experienced life more. Most 16 year olds, although affected by government policies, do not have the experience to have thoroughly informed political views of their own (then again, neither do some thirty year olds). The last thing society needs in an age where UKIP is raising it’s less than pretty head, is an influx of well-meant but misinformed voters, we have enough of those already.

YES- Louise Burt

Four years ago a lot of people were making choices for me. My dad chose my phone contract. My mum chose what I would be eating for dinner. My teachers chose what essays I would be writing. My sister chose what clothes she would take out of my wardrobe, and E4 chose to show me endless runs of Friends every night. However, all these choices being made by those in my life were harmless ones-ones that would shape my day, but not my future, how I would spend my evening, but not my life. However, at sixteen it was not my family and those close to me who were making the big choices for my future, it was those who didn’t know me, know the system, know their target audience; and who did not even listen and comprehend what teenagers and young adults wanted, wished and expressed about their future.

I can clearly see my sixteen year old self (using her privilege of being a Prefect and being trusted to leave school during free time) sitting in the town square of my little community in Norfolk, eating chips on a Friday lunch time and feeling frustrated. At sixteen I had so many dreams ahead of me, having always wanted to go to University. Yet despite wanting and working for something I was shown that hard work may not always pay off. At sixteen, I was feeling politically aware and knew that if I had the chance to vote I would have used it. But alas, at sixteen someone else made the choices for me, choices that I had no say in, but would directly affect me. I had to go through two years of sixth form knowing that despite the struggle, stress and strain I was putting myself under in the chance that I may end up attending University, I would still be enrolling myself into a course that was now triple the original price offered to me.

At sixteen, I was not legally considered eligible to vote. My voice would not be officially recognised, despite the fact that the changes that came out of the 2010 coalition directly affected me, and my future. I am in the first wave of students who have to pay £9,000 a year to further our education, and it is exasperating to know that those who just happened to be born four or five months earlier than myself will be graduating with the same degree, from the same establishment, however with a third less debt than myself, all because of the choices that were made in 2010.

After being given the promise of free education, only to watch the fees triple, not only was my voice denied, so too was the faith that I had in the Government and the English education system. How was I supposed to believe that those in power (those who had the luxury of free education) actually cared and supported me? Not only did the actions that took place in 2010 break my trust with those who are meant to look out for the welfare of students and the education system, it angered me, and I felt disconnected and embarrassed to call these people our politicians.

I am now embarking on the last three months of my degree, and I feel a lifetime away from my sixteen-year-old self. At sixteen I was dealing with high school life, and all the insecurities that come from a hormonal environment. I shouldn’t have been worrying about debt, loans and the potential thought that I might not go to University due to the ever-increasing prices. A degree is viewed as essential, yet priced as an extravagance. But, despite that, I knew at sixteen I was more than capable of making my own choices.

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