Thursday, November 24, 2005

Electoral Administration Bill

The subject of voting age has been brought up under the Electoral Administration Bill by Diana Johnson MP in the relevant committee. Another committee member Harriet Harman MP, Elections Minister, also looks favourably upon lowering it. Alex Folkes says that it was debated for an hour on Tuesday, although not according to this. I'm not disputing it, would just like to see the transcript!

Several people have told me in the last couple of weeks that there's no point in this blog as it will never become law, I wish I shared your optimism!

For the first time since the Electoral Commission dealt it's blow (or should I say 'kick in the teeth'), VotesAt16 has been creeping back on to the agenda.

Don't get complacent!

p.s. Thanks for all your emails of encouragement, though I would encourage you to share your thoughts as comments as well, if you have a Blogger account.

"Grow up!" - Joshua Rey

I managed to dig out this article I remember reading in The Times Thunderer column 18 months ago. It gets a bit philisophical but is a good read.

I particularly like: "Yet even many adults make the preposterous comparison between Votes at 16 and the Civil Rights movement. We all, not just the young, are losing the capacity to see ourselves as continuous moral persons through time."


Monday, November 14, 2005

A fatal Catch 22?!

The sharper minds amongst you may have picked up on a potentially fatal flaw in my arguments. I am still a teenager at 19 years of age, although as previously mentioned I have held these opinions from roughly the age of 17 - when I was ineligible to vote.

If I am right in my premises about young voters (particularly this one), can you the reader take those very premises of mine seriously?

If not, then does that therefore make my arguments wrong?

It's a funny catch 22 where my arguments dig their own grave to prove that they are right!

I could spin that clash of logic in different ways, but I'd like to clarify that my 'arguments' aren't actually that under 18's are all intellectually inferior!

I do think that my age adds weight to my position on this issue - past advocates of similar views on voting age have been at least middle-aged and talked about the superiority of adults etc.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Turning tide

Heard of The New Party?
They are a small party with some support in
Scotland and have a raft of interesting policies.

Letting them down somewhat was their initial support for a lower voting age, but after inquiring about it a couple of months ago they told me "We no longer support votes at 16" and subsequently "On review we decided things are fine at present"

I generally believe that change comes from within and therefore reform through mainstream parties, but I respect this party not only for it's sensible change of policy but also because despite it's size it is against proportional representation on principle.

I took the time to remind Alex Folkes, caretaker of the Votesat16 campaign (and on the payroll of the Electoral Reform Society as their Press and Campaigns Officer), that The New Party should no longer be listed as a supporter on the campaign website (the one that strangely went offline for at least 3 months in the summer period) but some months later this hasn't happened for some reason...

Friday, November 11, 2005

Worldwide conspiracy!

I've been doing some research..

What do Nicaragua, Somalia and Brazil have in common?

Apart from having huge levels of poverty, they are the only countries in the world which have the low voting age of 16.

A few more exemplar countries accompany them in also having minimum voting ages lower than 18...

North Korea, and
(oh, and some place called Seychelles)

Apologies if I have missed any other countries, I used all the evidence available 11/11/05

Evidently, nearly every single democratic, developed and civilised country in the world is content that eighteen or older (Japan's is 20, for example) is the sensible age to start voting.

A curse on those adult types who universally deprive us of our 'rights'!

This of course is not an argument in itself- if no idealistic people went against the flow the world would be greatly worse off, there are a few things that I myself believe in that a majority of the world doesn't. It is however revealing that there is no global sense of outrage at under 18's being ineligible to go to the polling stations. There are pockets of resistance to the conspiracy, such as in Florida, but they are invariably led by the chattering classes rather than the common yoof.

Yes, the votesat16 campaign in the UK can claim the support of the eminent organisations the British Youth Council and the UK Youth Parliament, but organisations made up of the minority that is the politically active young person are hardly going to reject the opportunity to vote by a matter of principle. I digress.

The choice is clear: go against the consensus of the civilised world and be a guinea pig for spurious reasons, or focus on important matters such as -insert any higher priority-

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Come on, it's a no-brainer! (almost literally)

Teenagers don't have adult brains - that's a psychological and anatomical fact.

All you need is some teenagers of your own or an MRI scanner to hand to find this out for yourself!

a) Our brains are still restructuring past the age of 20, the prefrontal cortex (frontal lobes) in particular.

b) It just so happens that the prefrontal cortex facilitates abstract thinking,
self-control and making moral judgements.

c) Is it sensible to extend suffrage to a group that is inherently lacking in these qualities?

Neuroscientist Jay Geidd, of the US National Institutes of Health is involved in this kind of research and sums it up quite nicely...

"It's not that the teens are stupid or incapable... It's sort of unfair to expect them to have adult levels of organisational skills or decision-making before their brain is finished being built."

(Recommended reading: "The Primal Teen" by Barbara Straught)

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

"You can't fatten the pig on market day"

"We have citizenship in schools now, so 16 yr olds are knowledgeable enough to vote"

So says a common case for 'the other side'. Yes, the ball has started rolling on citizenship education but i've yet to find a teenager who has experienced it! I am very supportive of it, I was even on the steering committee for a pilot project in Merseyside that ran day long events for sixth-formers to foment the principles of Global Citizenship.
The case for keeping the voting age at 18, rather than raising it, may be enhanced in several years if citizenship classes are established in our education system from a young age. Hopefully with this in place we can encourage a culture of active engagement in society amongst young people, perhaps with more debating societies and even pretend hustings at election time in schools.
As things stand, I can't accept the above statement as an argument for further reducing the voting age when citizenship education has barely started, and as a concept it is plainly not in the hearts and minds of young people like it used to be.
John Howard, Prime Minister of Australia, likes to use the phrase:
"You can't fatten the pig on market day"
I think it has pertinence!

NUS policy

The National Union of Students was not as sound however.

I asked them if they had a policy on it, and they do predictably want to reduce the minimum age. Their response, which I have pasted exactly here, justifies the policy basically by saying 'engagement in democracy is important' - a pretty vacuous and irrelevant statement even by their standards!* As a member, I find it a very unconvincing reason for having a corporate policy on it. They will have to be more imaginative in their justification of advocating reducing the voting age to exactly match it's membership…

"Thanks for your recent question. NUS has policy that the age of voting is reduced to 16. This is not a recent policy move, for a long time the National Union has believed that being engaed in the democracy of the nation has huge benefits to the individual and society.

For more information you might be interested to contact our Vice President Further Education who has more info around this policy."

If you would like to make representations to the Vice Pres. of Further Ed., I enquired and found out her email is

Let me know if you get any interesting responses!

*Note their bland reaction to this resignation!

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Tory truths

I was surprised to recieve a comprehensive reply from to a brief email about voting age. The position of the tory party is to be commended, I wish they'd talk about it a bit more as an issue though! Perhaps they don't want to bring it into the public mind unnecessarily, although I'm confident the status quo arguments would win through when it does.

Dear Mr Coates,

Mr Howard has asked me to thank you for your recent email and to reply
on his behalf.

The Conservative Party is very concerned that levels of political
participation among young people are currently so low. We are
determined to do all we can to ensure that this apathy is challenged and
the younger generations are given every opportunity to feel connected
with the political process.

We do not believe, however, that lowering the minimum age of voting to
16 would be the correct way forward in tackling political apathy among
young people, and we are very pleased that the Electoral Commission has
reached this same conclusion. As research carried out by the Commission
shows, the underlying reasons behind such low levels of participation
are deep-rooted and structural, encompassing a broader feeling of
alienation from the political process. Making technical adjustments
such as lowering the voting age would, therefore, do little to help

Instead, we feel that we should focus our energies on highlighting the
relevance of the political process to younger people, demonstrating that
politicians are listening to young people and are developing policies
which respond to their needs. We also believe it initially important to
address the low-levels of turnout amongst those young people who can
vote, but choose not to, before we even consider extending the franchise
to even younger ages. At the same time, we should consider this issue
within an international context, as a clear majority of countries have a
minimum voting age of 18. We do, however, perceive the present gap
between the age at which one can vote (18) and the age at which one can
stand for election (21) to be illogical and we are therefore fully in
support of reducing the age of candidacy to 18.

Thank you again for taking the time to write

Yours sincerely,
David Beal
Office of the Leader of the Opposition

Parental influence

Would 16 yr old children need parental permission slips to go to a polling station?

Hopefully they would have some friends at the vintage age of 17 years to give them a car lift to the station, and an old fogey 18 yr old coming along for the ride so he/she can take legal responsibility for them!

- On a serious note, in this day and age we are thankfully starting to move away from tribally voting for parties - giving sixteen and seventeen year olds the vote will mean a significant proportion of voters will be voting according to parental influence (or coercion).

- It is equally undesirable to have teenage rebels who will vote for any party other than the one their parents vote for.

- There is no doubt that,
in a bid to be different, a higher proportion of 16/17 yr olds would vote for extremist parties than more elderly and experienced voters do.

- Postal voting is already susceptible to fraud - adults open the post in a household, their children are unlikely to know there is an election going on.. what do you think will happen in that situation?

Not to be confused..

There was of course something of a previous "votes at 18" campaign in this country (in those pre-internet days) - which led to the Representation of the People Act in 1969, although not without controversy.

So what has changed since then?
Has God done a Socrates - despaired at 'the youth of today' - and used his omnipotence to zap some wisdom from experience unnaturally into the senses of 21st century yoof? Have teenagers evolved a prematurely enhanced understanding of the concept of 'opportunity cost'?
The evidence would suggest not.

Unlike many, I do not advocate revoking the afore mentioned Act of Parliament and raising the minimum age of voters - it seems to me that eighteen is the obvious watermark of adulthood, and therefore voterhood.

Time for a voice!

Debates on the British minimum voting age have for too long been led by an organised campaign, funded by 'the liberati' and 'voice of the youth' organisations.

Well, this my long-considered attempt at restoring some balance.

Voting age is a subject unlikely to rouse too much passion, except perhaps with the odd young idealist without a cause, but i've always felt strongly about it staying at eighteen... since the age of seventeen!