Hull North MP Diana Johnson today launched a new Parliamentary campaign in support of reducing the minimum voting age for all public elections to 16.
The Labour MP has tabled an Early Day Motion (EDM) at the House of Commons supporting votes at 16. It has already attracted supporters from MPs representing all the main political parties.
The campaign to reform the voting age aims to influence the Electoral Administration Bill that is currently beginning its passage through Parliament. This Bill proposes to reduce the minimum age for standing for election to public office from 21 to 18, but presently does not support reducing the voting age from its current age of 18.
Diana Johnson MP believes that 16 and 17 year olds have many of the same responsibilities as adults, including serving in the armed forces and paying taxes, but are barred from having a say in who represents them at Westminster or even in their local council.
The MP also believes that the measure is one of the many reforming measures needed to re-engage citizens in the democratic process at local and national elections and is a logical extension of the citizenship education that the Government has introduced into schools. Diana Johnson is appealing to those backbench MPs from all political parties who regard themselves as democratic modernisers to sign up to the EDM and support the broad-based campaign for votes at 16.
Diana Johnson MP said: "At 16, a young adult can get married, work, pay taxes and serve in the armed forces. However, they cannot vote to elect those who set their taxes or who might send the country to war. It is time that this unfairness was rectified.
"In introducing votes at 16, we would be building upon the Government's citizenship education programme in schools and taking one of the positive steps that are needed to boost local and national democracy. With the evidence showing that young people are interested in political issues, I also believe that we should encourage the more socially useful and public-spirited habits in young people. Voting would certainly be one of these.
"So far, in the Electoral Administration Bill ministers are following the recommendations put forward in the Electoral Commission's April 2004 report, entitled The Age of Electoral Majority, which argued for the voting age to remain at 18 on the basis of very dubious research and illogical arguments.
"Many of the same arguments that will be used to support the welcome reform to reduce the age of candidature to 18 apply equally to cutting the voting age to 16. Those MPs in all parties who regard themselves as constitutional modernisers should back the campaign to give 16 and 17 year olds democratic rights that reflect their responsibilities. Signing the Votes at 16 EDM in Parliament would be a start."