Ellie Levenson: The voting age should be raised, not lowered

The majority of 16-year-olds are just not mature or responsible enough to have the vote

Share

To be against lowering the voting age is seen by most progressives as symptomatic of losing one's youth and gaining some grumpiness. So for a relatively young progressive such as myself to be against lowering the voting age - well, I might as well have said let's abolish the vote altogether going by the looks I have received from many of my colleagues on the left.

To be against lowering the voting age is seen by most progressives as symptomatic of losing one's youth and gaining some grumpiness. So for a relatively young progressive such as myself to be against lowering the voting age - well, I might as well have said let's abolish the vote altogether going by the looks I have received from many of my colleagues on the left.

The Electoral Commission releases it's report on lowering the voting age today, and if the Labour Party's growing sympathy towards this idea is anything to go by, it is likely that it will come out in favour of it.

This is a mistake, for two reasons. The first is that it is a simple case of ostrich head meets sand. Yes it is a sad fact that over 40 per cent of those eligible to vote in this country did not exercise their right to do so in the last general election. It's generally agreed that this constitutes some kind of crisis of political engagement. However, by increasing the number of people eligible to vote you merely have the same percentage of a larger number of people not voting, or perhaps an even larger percentage of people not voting, as the youngest group of eligible voters usually has the lowest turnout.

But the second reason, and most important one, is that the majority of 16 year olds are just not responsible enough or mature enough to have the vote.

Those who argue against this use the bundling of rights argument: the age of consent is 16, people can get married at 16, people can join the armed forces at 16, and that there should be no taxation without representation. Therefore, they think, it follows that 16-year-olds should also have the vote.

Well, we know that just because a person has sex does not mean that they are responsible. Look at Britain's teen pregnancy rate. There seems little logical connection between having the right to participate in sex and having the right to vote. Animals, after all, have sex, yet we do not propose giving our pets the vote.

To get married in England and Wales people under 18 require parental consent. Do we want people to ask for parental consent to vote for a party of their choice? And how many of us really think a 16-year-old is capable of making a life-changing and legally binding decision such as marriage? Financial institutions certainly do not think so. You must be 18 to sign binding contracts or to own land in your own name. Therefore 16-year-olds, married with parental permission or not, cannot apply for a mortgage or own the house in which they live.

Similarly, under 18s need parental consent to join the armed forces, and in normal circumstances are not deployed on operations until they are 18. In fact, the UN supports raising the age of joining the forces to 18.

As for no taxation without representation, all young people pay tax if they spend money - VAT. A 10- year-old spending their pocket money on a burger in McDonald's or on a CD pays tax. Does this mean they should be given the vote? Or does this argument just refer to income tax, in which case, if tax is so inextricably tied up with voting rights. do they think the vote should be taken away from those whose incomes do not reach the threshold for paying income tax?

But whether or not a taxpayer, spouse, parent or soldier, 16-year-olds should not have the vote.

It is during a person's teenage years that they are most likely to be exposed to new ideas and points of view, be it through school, the new people they meet or from the media. This is the age at which people should be able to think through their political ideas and change them at will, debate and try out policies without having to act on them and without having to take responsibility for their ideas.

And it is at this age that teenagers are at their most rebellious and negative stage, a time when they are more keen on making a statement than acting responsibly. Rebellion against your parents' taste in music and their rules is one thing; let's not make that part of the democratic process by which our government is elected.

As we all know, maturity rates in teenagers differ tremendously, both in terms of the ability to think through an argument logically and in terms of the ability to understand cause and effect and to take responsibility for their own actions. Some 16-years-olds look and act as if they are in their twenties. Others are still childlike and unable to take on responsibility or act independently.

Voting is a serious matter. It is what makes a democracy, and must be taken seriously by all voters. I don't think most 16-year-olds are mature enough to vote. Some will be capable of voting (and having sex, getting married and joining the armed forces) at 16 - others will not be ready at 18. As the law must be arbitrary, we need the highest common denominator, and 18 is a better line than 16.

So perhaps "should we lower the voting age?" is the wrong question. Instead it should be should we raise it, and if so, to what age? I am 25. I think this would be a good age.

The writer is the editor of 'Fabian Review'

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

Day In a Page

 

Ed Miliband's conference speech must show Labour has a head as well as a heart

Patrick Diamond
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments