They're not voting because...
- I can't
I'm not old enough to vote yet, even though the policies of government affect me and my community. In a country that prides itself as a beacon of democracy, its citizens are allowed to smoke, marry, or start working before they can register a vote in the ballot box. Surely in a meritocratic society there should be no arbitrary age restriction on voting - why should the young be lumped in with criminals or the clinically insane? Do we really, as politicians presumably presume, lack the capacity to make a reasoned decision?
It is unfair that teenagers who are those most damaged by the failing schools, and who regularly take advantage of the NHS are unable to make a point at the general election. For Britain's youth, this is not a democracy, but an unaccountable government who extend free and fair elections only to those who meet certain ageist criteria.
I would sorely like to see the back of my local MP, Tessa Jowell. With her unwaivering support for the Iraq war and her greedy proposal for the introduction of Super Casinos, she certainly doesn't represent my views or interests. How, I beg to ask, did such responsible adults vote her to victory? How did such a mature and responsible electorate vote Margaret Thatcher to victory in 1987? And how will such a rational and measured population reelect a man who lied to them over an issue of international importance?written 18th Apr 2005
Si Hope replies: Teenagers don't have most of the concerns of property-owning, family-rearing, more experienced citizens and so are given a breather to make mistakes without damaging society in the process. The greatest risk is 'issue voting', where you fix the 'injustice' but start off a chain reaction whoich makes things worse overall. Managing change is exttremely difficult, and explaining the inter-relatedness of political reality to teenagers is the hardest thing ever. There is a slew of recent evidence which shows teenagers are undergoing a period of biological adjustment unprecedented in the animal kingdom. The reasons for it are hotly debated, but there is now little doubt it is happening, and one of the characteristics of the change is impaired brain function. Here's an example and there are tons more out therewritten 18th Apr 2005
The parts most affected are those controlling reasoning. Add that to this the lack of experience and teenagers should be glad of this cocooned time to learn without causing intractable damage but aren't. I wonder why?
Unfortunately for you, being a teenager sucks but if you stick it out and try to enjoy what you're given, you get your head together at around 21, 22 and it's generally all uphill from there.
Mj replies: I'm 16 and I absolutely oppose lowering the voting age. Si Hope is totally right - we don't know what it is to own a home, pay taxes etc, and most teenagers would vote on the few issues they cared about. We aren't informed enough to be able to vote.
We may be able to marry and have children before we can vote, but are you going to? My bet is you're not ready to do those things, you're not responsible enough yet and you know it. Likewise, you and I really are too young to vote.written 18th Apr 2005
Andy replies: Quote " most teenagers would vote on the few issues they cared about." UnQuote
How is this different from most adults?
I'm 25 an one of the most depressing things about a democracy is the number of people who will vote for a single issue. A tax cut, a pensions boost, abortion legislation, or a nice smile.
Maybe everyone should have to pass a test before being abllowed to vote. To show they've at least thought about it and are not just voting for the same party they voted for a 16, because times and the parties have changed.written 18th Apr 2005
the author replies: "My bet is you're not ready to do those things"
The arguments for setting an age restriction on voting are clearly fallacious. Those who espouse the idea suggest that teenagers tend to be less mature, and are unlikely to have the experience to make the right decision; therefore, those under 18 should not be entitled to the right to vote. I do not wish to dispute the premise, only the conclusion.
In a liberal democracy we should judge people as individuals, we should not band them into classes. For instance, people from working class background tend to be less intelligent and less well educated - insofar as this impairs their decision-making ability, one might argue that they should be disenfranchised. However, there are some people who come from working class backgrounds who are tremedously successful, intelligent, and quite capable of ratiocination. The same is true of this country's young people.
I suggest that if the government doesn't wish to grant universal suffrage, then it should, at the very least, have some test of means. Otherwise, it is guilty of discrimination, a crime analogous to racism. If a government, such as happened during the apartheid, limited voting to select races, there would be outrage - though the right is withheld from Britain's youth without a second thought.written 18th Apr 2005
Mj replies: Well then why not let 13 year olds vote? Or 10 year olds? They know what's right and wrong don't they?
The electorate votes on your behalf, your parents in particular will look at issues regarding education and take your future into account. You are being represented until you are out on your own.
When you think about who you would vote for if you could, do you consider taxation? Even if you do, what do you know, you don't pay them yet.written 18th Apr 2005
the author replies: "Well then why not let 13 year olds vote? Or 10 year olds? They know what's right and wrong don't they?"
One may well point out those who exist in a group who might not be able to make sensible decisions; but that is a problem in every democracy. Do you wish for us to emulate Plato's Republic, in which only an elite class of philosophers governs, "on your behalf". As long as political parties like the BNP exist, doesn't this imply that some people have the vote that clearly shouldn't? I, for one, am not satisfied by an electorate that "votes on [my] behalf"; this electorate includes people who vote for the BNP, it includes people whose only political comment comes from Quentin Lett's of Middle England's beloved Daily Mail, and it includes people who clearly aren't responsible or generous enough to vote on another's behalf. We must treat people as individual's - just because some members of a group have particular attributes, this does not mean one can judge all members on the basis of those attributes.
Your second point is ludricrous: "When you think about who you would vote for if you could, do you consider taxation? Even if you do, what do you know, you don't pay them yet."
You imply that one should only vote on an issue that one has experienced. Does that mean that I can't have views on education if I'm not in education? Does it mean that I can't have views on crime if I have perpetrated it or been a victim of it? Does that mean that I can't have take healthcare into account unless I've had to use the NHS at some point? I do not believe that your objection to giving young people the vote, in this respect, is a valid one.
Finally, just to point out your incorrect assertion that I "don't pay [taxes] yet". For just one example, I pay 17.5% VAT almost every time I make a purchase.written 18th Apr 2005
Stuart Robinson replies: I would have to agree with the author. It is patently arbitrary in any case. Why persons on age 18 years are mystically more "capable" in deciding those who will rule the country than persons of ag 17 years is beyond me. Anyone who wants the vote should be entitled to it; As many of those entitled to it steadfastly refuse to use it (see every other post), an active interest from an informed teenager is much preferable to ignorant and misinformed disinterest from a supposedly "capable and responsible" adult.
As to the fact that adults are gifted with the priviledge of voting for us, what if our parents are the misinformed ignorants that I mentioned before and do not vote? Are we then to be entitled to vote, seeing that the guardians of our votes have declined to excercise that priviledge?
In truth, teenagers are restricted because they do not vote like adults do, and thus are an unknown quantity to the major parties, whose combined stranglehold on power means that reforms to the voting age come slowly or not at all.
Finally, perhaps we should rise under the well worn banner that I recall being involved in many the civil war of the past: If we are to be denied the right to vote, then in turn we should be denied the compulsion to pay taxes to fund a government in which we have no representation.written 19th Apr 2005
Anna replies: Perhaps what's really needed is a test of voting capability. There could be tests for logicical thinking, ability to understand and follow complex arguments, and perhaps a bit of historical context for party positions. Anyone who failed the test would lose the right to vote in that election.
This would include some teenagers and exclude an awful lot of adults.written 19th Apr 2005
the author replies: Their are problems with that approach, not only because it would cease to be a democracy ("rule of the people").
a) Equal consideration of interests should not be contingent on other factors. For that reason, saying that only those who can pass the test can vote can be seen as as arbitrary as age, race, or gender.
b) Those who pass the test would probably also be those who were well educated and successful. Although in a utopic state they would vote on behalf of those who did not pass, they cannot be trusted to do this. It would be unrepresentative. We would find ourselves being ruled by an elite. And to judge by the current political parties' behaviour, the government would pander to the select electorate, ignoring those who are not entitled to vote.
Either, everyone affected by government must be entitled the right to vote, or we must through the baby out with the bathwater and call ourselves a meritocracy that strives to rule in the interests of the people. To this end, some form of mean's test may be necessary.written 19th Apr 2005
emily replies: i completely agree with the author. i am 16 years old and have taken an interest in policitcs for the past 6 years. it is unfair to say that just because i don't pay tax i cannot vote for it, adults do not experiance my school, so how can they vote on education? also, i think i am probably better informed regarding politics than anyone around me, i have to explain party policies and current affairs to my mum (because shes a bit blonde) aswell as most of my extended family.written 20th Apr 2005
i am fed up of people being dismissed or underestimated. it used to be thought that women were properly represented by their husbands, how many of you agree with that?
what is voting age based on? some 16 yr olds work, and pay tax. some 16 yr olds are intelligent 'enough' and it could be argued that a lot of people able to vote have not experianced politics at all, apart from when they sign-on. with such a low turn out maybe young people would develop a more lively debate that not only generated interest within our group, but the rest aswell.
as a side note, i find the generalisation made earlier to be completely unfair.
personnally, i have had much experiance of the NHS, both my own continued wait for proper diagnosis and my family's experiance too. i am currently at secondry school (my old school was closed last year...dont hear about school closures much do you?), studying GCSE's, i intend to move onto 6th form and then University. i have a very clear understanding of tax, and what people pay as i am involved with the running of my mums business. i live in an ex-mining town (up-north) where drugs and anti social behaviour are rife, ASBO's do not work, loads of them have been handed out here with no differnce. i have several elderly relatives, i see, day to day their struggle for adequate care and pensions. my aunty is a single parent, currently on maternity leave so i see that angle also. my mum is a single parent. i have experianced social services and theres a lot that needs to be done there.
i personally am fed up of broken promises and quick fixes. the amount of managers in the NHS annoys me. in my opinion Labour is one massive smoke screen and a 3rd term of Labour will see public services falling apart at the seams.
yes, not all teenagers are well informed regarding politics, but then again how many adults are informed at all? it must be bad if that at the last election i (12 yrs old) was explaining party policy to at least 10 members of my family that were of voting age. mental.....how many families aren't lucky enough to have such a well informed teenager?
should an adult who can't even name the main 3 parties (never mind anyone else) be able to vote? what makes you think that just because your over 18 your so well informed and placed to make a decision for me!?
like i say, crazy, absolutely insane.