Should we trust sixteen year olds with the vote?

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Jack Corban
Views Editor

Jack Corban debates lowering the voting age to 16

Two days after the referendum, it was pretty unusual to see such a crowd walking through the streets of Lancaster for any political reason, but there they were. Many of my friends were in that crowd, campaigning for the right for 16-year olds to be able to vote; this was of course due to their frustration with the Brexit result. The result had certainly got me riled up, but I couldn’t bring myself to join them. In Britain’s current state I don’t think lowering the voting age is a good idea.

Why? Because kids are really, really stupid. I’ve been one, trust me. I’m joking of course, I don’t mean to belittle anyone’s political engagement before they were 18. I was politically engaged, a lot of my friends were, and there was nothing more annoying than someone denying you a say in a discussion because of your “silly, immature teenage mind”. But looking back on it, the most common person to tell me to shut up, to tell me no one cares or to shout something wildly offensive as some sort of juvenile attempt to wind me up were my fellow classmates.

My school once held a mock election to see how the students would vote if they had the chance – the aim was to see if it would reflect the actual result. Of course, UKIP won. Considering a lot of the people I knew at high school, it wouldn’t surprise me if a few of them actually supported the party, but let’s be honest, most of them did it because they thought it was funny. Most of the people at my school didn’t care or know anything about politics; if they actually had the ability to go out and vote at a polling station, I doubt their decision would be informed, nor do I think any of them would actually go in the first place.

This sucks for the kids like me who were itching to have their say, who followed the Brexit campaign more than any adult they knew, only to watch them not vote, or vote with no actual knowledge as to what they were voting for. But how would I make it fair for those kids? Maybe we could have some political test for those who want to vote at 16? It’s not the worst idea, just turning up to the test is probably already proof enough that you are politically engaged enough to actually know a thing or two. But this seems more like a minor attempt to make those few politically interest kids feel included in the debate.

What would turn my opinion around to the voting age being lowered is simple. It’s something that’s been previously discussed in The Glasgow Guardian in the article “Politics must be taught in schools”, which gives away what I’m about to suggest. I won’t touch on the topic too much since we’ve already covered it and I agree with everything written in that article, but if politics were a mandatory course for pupils, I’d immediately change my tune on the voting age. I remember often complaining about not being taught anything that I could apply to the real world in mandatory courses, but politics definitely has real life implications for the average person’s life, because most of us eventually have the ability to vote.

If politics were taught in schools, even paying the slightest bit of attention in that class would likely make every student more knowledgeable and able to vote with understanding than the average adult. If that were the case, and I really want it to be, I would happily support a lowering of the voting age to 16.