Votes at 16

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I originally wrote this as part of an application but I’ve decided to share it here as it seems particularly relevant in light of the recently announced general election…

2016 was an important year for me. I turned 16. I passed my GCSEs. I moved schools.

My country voted on a referendum without me.

At first, it didn’t feel like that. My school hosted a mock election over a Wednesday lunchtime. My history teacher spent a lesson discussing Brexit and the populist movement. Amongst my friends, the referendum was debated and deliberated for weeks.

And yet, despite the hours spent discussing it over cups of coffee and maths textbooks, holding mock referendums in classrooms and reading endless Twitter feeds, on 23 June, an entire generation could do nothing but sit and watch the results on TV. It was like watching a football match, yelling at the screen but knowing that no-one was listening.

I felt useless, unheard and disillusioned. How can a political party promise to deliver on the minimum wage for under-18s when there are no voters to hold them accountable? How can a political party talk about changing the higher education system without asking the people who are actually applying to it?

I wasn’t allowed to have a say in my own future. I can work, I can get married but I can’t vote.

Voter turnout among the under-25s is shockingly low (64%) because of the same disillusionment I felt. We need to get young people involved in politics and their future. We need to engage young people while we still have their attention, while they are still in classrooms and lectures and common rooms. We need to incentivise the government to create policies that include 16 and 17 years olds.

Allowing votes at 16 in Scotland was a step in the right direction. (Read about it here and here). It’s time that the whole of the UK stepped up and championed Votes at 16.

Click here to see the Votes at 16 campaign.

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