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Welsh assembly debates idea of lower voting age of 16

Category: Wales

Published: 4th Jul 2012 11:39:13

A debate is to be held by Assembly Members on lowering the voting age to 16 in Welsh elections.

Although the assembly has no power to change the law, AMs say a vote in favour would send a positive message about young people's involvement in the democratic process.

It has been tabled with cross-party support from the main parties, and youth leaders have welcomed the debate.

Any decision to alter the voting age would rest with Westminster.

Guto Davies, 16, from Anglesey, along with other young people, will meet politicians before attending the debate in the Senedd.

Mr Davies, chair of Funky Dragon, the children and young people's assembly for Wales, said the law should be changed.

He said people aged 16 could do so many things, such as start a family, yet could not vote.

As a country we are willing to see our young people join the armed forces at the age of 16... yet we seem to think that youngsters are not mature enough to vote at that age”

AMs raising the issue are Julie Morgan (Labour, Cardiff North), Aled Roberts (Liberal Democrat, North Wales), Bethan Jenkins (South West Wales, Plaid Cymru) and Paul Davies (Conservative, Preseli Pembrokeshire)

They have put forward the motion that the "National Assembly for Wales supports lowering the voting age to 16 years in all elections and referendums held in Wales".

Mr Roberts said that while the issue had been part of Lib Dem party policy at UK level for some time, it had also been raised in Wales several times by young people he had met at sessions in schools.

"As a country we are willing to see our young people join the armed forces at the age of 16, have children and get married and yet we seem to think that youngsters are not mature enough to vote at that age," he said.

"Although I accept that this is currently a matter for the UK Parliament, I believe that the fact that the motion attracts cross-party support is an important indicator of opinion within the National Assembly."

Jessica Peters, 16, from Barry, Vale of Glamorgan, who will attend the debate, said she would love the opportunity to vote.

She added: "I know a lot of other young people feel the same way as me because at 16 years old, by law we can get married and start having families.

"Well, why can't we vote for who's running the country that our family's going to live in?

At 16 we're able to start earning the minimum wage, yet we can't vote for who's deciding what the minimum wage is”

"At 16 we're able to start earning the minimum wage, yet we can't vote for who's deciding what the minimum wage is, and things like that. It just doesn't seem fair."

In March Presiding Officer Rosemary Butler called for a debate on lowering the voting age in Welsh elections, telling the BBC Sunday Politics Wales show that the Isle of Man and Jersey had introduced the change.

The Scottish government wants 16-17-year-olds to take part in the nation's referendum on independence.

Ahead of the debate, Ms Morgan said: "I firmly believe that lowering the voting age would help engage our young people in the decisions that affect their lives.

"It should also set a pattern for greater participation in elections later in life."

Kay Swinburne, Conservative MEP for Wales, said previously that she would rather a "broader" look was taken at voting patterns, because at the moment 18 to 24-year-olds were at the "poorer end of the spectrum" when it came to turning out to vote.

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BBC News, 2012. Welsh assembly debates idea of lower voting age of 16 [Online] (Updated 4th Jul 2012)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news/1438542/Welsh-assembly-debates-idea-of-lower-voting-age-of-16 [Accessed 2nd Sep 2014]

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