UK government must follow Wales and Scotland in backing ‘fairer franchise’, say campaigners

By agency reporter
January 29, 2018

The Electoral Reform Society, who have been instrumental in lobbying for votes at 16 in Wales, are calling on the UK government to back similar proposals.

The Society say there will soon be "glaring constitutional injustice’" with 16 and 17 year olds able to vote in local elections in Scotland and Wales while around a million people of the same age in England and Northern Ireland will be denied that right.

Evidence from the Scottish independence referendum, substantiated by research from Austria and Norway, shows that 16- and 17-year-olds have higher rates of turnout than 18-34 year olds .

Darren Hughes, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said:?  “The Welsh Government are setting a positive example for Westminster – it’s time the UK government followed suit in backing a franchise fit for the 21st century.

“This generation of school leavers are more clued up on politics than ever. Yet despite being the first to have received citizenship education, they are being denied their full rights as citizens.

“There is a widening gulf between people and politics which we can help reverse. This is about nurturing active and engaged young citizens for the health of our democracy. When young people help build a deep and diverse political debate, we all benefit.

“However, it would be a glaring constitutional injustice if around a million 16 and 17 year olds in England and Northern Ireland continued to be denied a vote in elections. And it remains a political inequality that 16 and 17 year olds in Scotland and Wales will be unable to vote in Westminster elections.

“This is now in Theresa May’s ballpark – and if she wants to show she is committed to a stronger and less divided country she should get behind the movement for a fairer franchise. This is about being on the right side of history and we hope the UK government now come forward with proposals for reform in line with Wales and Scotland.

“We know the positive impact that votes at 16 can have in reviving our democracy. 16 and 17 year olds threw themselves wholeheartedly into the Scottish independence referendum, with 75 per cent voting and 97 per cent saying they would vote in future elections.

“Even those opposed to extending the franchise for the referendum at the time – such as Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson– now back it after seeing the inspiring impact it has.”

Jessica Blair, Director of the Electoral Reform Society Cymru, said: “We are delighted to see the Welsh Government bringing forward these innovative ideas to modernise our democracy.

“Wales is leading the way in creating a political system that works for everybody – something that is especially pertinent in the centenary year of the first women getting the vote. There is a real need to change how we do politics in Wales and across the UK. These recommendations are the first step in making that happen.”

* Electoral Reform Society https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/

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