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Published on June 6th, 2011 | by Amy Mack
Image © [caption id="attachment_2285" align="alignleft" width="203" caption="Vote at 16"]Vote at 16[/caption] For the first time, 16 and 17-year-olds casted their vote in a state election in Germany on May 22nd. The German city-state of Bremen has lowered its voting age and several other states are expected to follow suit. Over the last decade, there has been debate over whether to lower the voting age across Europe, and in the UK in particular. Generally, young people legally come of age at 18 years old. Here, they are deemed to be fully responsible adults, and therefore possess the right to vote. This typecast is made more difficult, as those aged 16 and above are allowed access to a handful of other societal activities. Legally, at 16 in the UK, young people can leave school, work full time and pay taxes, leave home, get married, join the armed forces, and ultimately make lots of decisions about their own personal future. Those in support of lowering the voting age suggest that at 16, young people become adults. However, this can be contested, as at 16 – young people are still very much in legal terms a child. The debate is often complex, and there are very noticeable inconsistencies of different rights becoming available at different ages. In 2003, the Electoral Commission led research on this topic in order to inform Parliamentary debate on whether or not the UK should lower its age of electoral majority to 16. Subsequently, the Electoral Commission concluded that young people in the UK had not yet gained the relevant political knowledge and maturity to vote. Furthermore, they concluded that 16s and 17s had (on the whole) a lack of political interest and often failed to participate politically in the already available channels; a view regularly challenged by the Votes at 16 Coalition. Instead, the German city of Bremen has further expanded their franchise and sixteen-year-olds have voted in a state election for the first time. Authorities suggested they aimed to increase interest in politics amongst youth, by encouraging them to vote at a younger age in these local elections. However, voters have to be 18 and over to vote in the other 15 German states and in federal (general) elections. Currently, Austria is the only other European nation that allows 16-year-olds to vote. Closer to home, the neighbouring Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey all passed laws to ensure voting at 16 in 2006. For further information on this issue, see the ‘votes at 16’ coalition website: http://www.votesat16.org/

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Votes at 16 – If they can in Germany why can’t we?

Vote at 16

Vote at 16

For the first time, 16 and 17-year-olds casted their vote in a state election in Germany on May 22nd. The German city-state of Bremen has lowered its voting age and several other states are expected to follow suit.

Over the last decade, there has been debate over whether to lower the voting age across Europe, and in the UK in particular. Generally, young people legally come of age at 18 years old. Here, they are deemed to be fully responsible adults, and therefore possess the right to vote. This typecast is made more difficult, as those aged 16 and above are allowed access to a handful of other societal activities. Legally, at 16 in the UK, young people can leave school, work full time and pay taxes, leave home, get married, join the armed forces, and ultimately make lots of decisions about their own personal future. Those in support of lowering the voting age suggest that at 16, young people become adults. However, this can be contested, as at 16 – young people are still very much in legal terms a child. The debate is often complex, and there are very noticeable inconsistencies of different rights becoming available at different ages.

In 2003, the Electoral Commission led research on this topic in order to inform Parliamentary debate on whether or not the UK should lower its age of electoral majority to 16. Subsequently, the Electoral Commission concluded that young people in the UK had not yet gained the relevant political knowledge and maturity to vote. Furthermore, they concluded that 16s and 17s had (on the whole) a lack of political interest and often failed to participate politically in the already available channels; a view regularly challenged by the Votes at 16 Coalition.

Instead, the German city of Bremen has further expanded their franchise and sixteen-year-olds have voted in a state election for the first time. Authorities suggested they aimed to increase interest in politics amongst youth, by encouraging them to vote at a younger age in these local elections. However, voters have to be 18 and over to vote in the other 15 German states and in federal (general) elections. Currently, Austria is the only other European nation that allows 16-year-olds to vote. Closer to home, the neighbouring Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey all passed laws to ensure voting at 16 in 2006.

For further information on this issue, see the ‘votes at 16’ coalition website: http://www.votesat16.org/

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