Welcome to politics! Young people split over voting age

  • Young people share their thoughts on lowering the voting age
  • Some felt they weren’t yet mature enough to vote
  • Others were keen to have their voices heard at the ballot box

Politicians have argued back and forth about the wisdom of lowering the voting age to 16 and failed to find common ground.

But what do the young people themselves think of the idea?

CO 160315 Students at  St Wilfrid's School,  Crawley, have been asked whether they think the voting age should be lowered to 16. Photo by Derek Martin SUS-150316-115726001

CO 160315 Students at St Wilfrid's School, Crawley, have been asked whether they think the voting age should be lowered to 16. Photo by Derek Martin SUS-150316-115726001

Students from St Wilfrid’s School, Oriel High School and Thomas Bennett Community College were asked whether they thought the voting age should be lowered.

Their answers proved one constant – in politics, no matter your age, there are as many differing opinions as there are stars in the sky.

The voting age debate made its way to Crawley after Scottish youngsters were welcomed to the ballot box during last year’s Referendum.

At a full meeting of Crawley Borough Council last month, a Notice of Motion was tabled calling on the council to support the idea for young people in England.

The youth are our future and they are going to be around a lot longer than the elderly

Gregor Young, Oriel High School

Labour Cllr Chris Oxalde proposed the motion, claiming not allowing 16/17-year-olds the vote was akin to saying their views were not valid. That argument was dismissed as “fatuous” by the Conservative leader Cllr Duncan Crow.

The arguments from both sides of the chamber came with a heavy dose of party politics – there’s an election coming up, after all – but one thing did stand true.

There are almost 3,000 16 and 17-year-olds in Crawley.

If they were allowed to vote how much would they change the face of Crawley politics and how many would welcome the responsibility?

Keleigh Wood, 17, of Thomas Bennett, was not in favour. She said: “At the age of 16, many don’t know enough about politics to give an answer. If the age was lowered it would cause many to see voting as pointless and become apathetic and not something to look forward to.”

Lack of political knowledge was also seen as a barrier by Aden Gwynne, 17, of St Wilfrid’s. When asked if he would like to see the age lowered, he said: “No, because the majority of 16 year olds won’t understand what they are voting for, which would make the whole process of voting pointless.”

Joshua Beer, 16, of Thomas Bennett, disagreed.

He said: “I study politics and have become very passionate about it. It has also made me want to get more involved. One way is voting from 16 because it should be right for young people to vote as young people need to have a say in our society.”

Juliana Kohli, 16, of St Wilfrid’s agreed with Joshua because “decisions are made about people our age when we don’t have any say”.

She added: “Lowering the voting age would enable us to have more control over our futures and decisions made about it.”

Gregor Young, of Oriel, was torn between the two camps – concern teenagers would vote for the “wrong” person, opting to focus on a candidate’s personality rather than learning about his or her policies.

But he added: “I think it should be reduced to 16 because the youth are our future and they are going to be around a lot longer than the elderly so they should get a say in what is happening in politics and I think it would encourage more younger people to have an interest in politics.”

Valid points from all corners but, unfortunately, the apathy, lack of knowledge and voting for personality over ability, could as easily be applied to much of the adult population.

Reading the responses from the students at Oriel, St Wilfrid’s and Thomas Bennett, our town is producing an outstanding generation of young people.

If they are not put off by the playground politics which turns many a council meeting into a slanging match around election time, when their time does come to vote, they will be more than capable of holding the candidates to account.

The final word, though, goes to Nicola Palmer-Jones, 17, of Thomas Bennett, who has very solid views on the capability of some of her peers!

She said: “I know many 16-year-olds and I wouldn’t let them vote on what ice cream they want, let alone something that affects other people.”

Yes - Young people ‘have something to say’

Lisa Maxwell, 16: “ Yes, because I feel like 16 is a good age where you start to understand what are good and bad choices for the better.”

Kristi-Leigh Spy, 17: “I do politics and want to vote.”

Kabba Chann, 17: “Because they might have something about the town to argue about and would like to

vote for that particular reason.”

Gary Killick, 17: “Gives people more of an opportunity to put forward more ideas in order for the country to move forwards in the future.”

Joshua Phillips, 17: “More people should have views on the country.”

Kieran Hamilton, 16: “Yes, voting age should be lowered to 16 because at 16 you are able to work so you should be able to vote.”

Ezme Haywood, 18: “Politics affects everyone, especially when it involves education. Giving 16 and 17 year olds the vote gives them the opportunity to have a say in their future.”

Alex Fitton, 17: “I believe that if we are educated about politics and voting that the age of voting should be lowered to 16. A lot of people (even older people that do vote) don’t fully understand what they are voting for.

Rob, 17: “16-year-olds are mature enough to decide what to vote for.”

No - Too young to ‘make correct decision’

Kaine Stephens, 12: “I don’t think it should be lowered because when you are 16 you are not legally an adult and adults make the decisions what’s best for kids and when your 16 your legally still a kid.”

Johnny Keaveney, 16: “No because a lot of people my age are not capable of rational thought. However, if there was a referendum that specifically targeted 16-18 year olds then they should be able to vote.”

Alex Lipov, 16: “No, unless secondary education on politics and government becomes compulsory and effective. Most 16 year olds are too ignorant to decide.”

Wayne Kitenge, 18: “Not enough children under 18 have enough knowledge of politics to make their own decision on the matter. This could mean that parents could use their children’s votes to strengthen their opinions.”

Martin WJ Pretty, 19: “People at 18 know little enough about politics, let alone at 16. 16-year-olds want the vote because of a juvenile sense of being grown up.”

Courtney Bunday, 17: “I don’t think they are old enough to make the correct decision.”

Siobhan Miller, 17: “I don’t think 16-year-olds know enough about politics.”