Study Notes

Extending the Franchise – Lowering the Voting Age

AS, A-Level
AQA, Edexcel

Last updated 9 Sept 2017

One way that the “franchise” could be extended further in the UK is to lower the age at which people are eligible to vote.

Currently the voting age in the UK is 18. However, 16 and 17 year olds were permitted to vote in the Scottish Independence referendum. 16 and 17 year olds in the Isle of Man, Jersey, Guernsey, Brazil and Austria already have the vote. They can also vote in some elections in Germany, Malta and Norway.

Discussions over the voting age are inevitably connected with the 'age of majority’, or the age at which individuals are recognised as adults in law.

Where some feel that the voting age should be lowered to 16 – the same age at which you can legally marry, have sex, and enter the armed forces in most of the UK, others think that 18 is still too young an age at which individuals can start voting in elections. Instead, some argue that people should be given the vote in their twenties, once they've gained some life experience, are paying taxes, and can think independently. This argument is essential based on an argument about personal “maturity”.

There are around 1.5 million 16 and 17 year-olds in the UK and the evidence from the Scottish Referendum suggested that they might be expected to have a high turnout if given the franchise. A number of organisations are actively pressing the case for lowering the voting age to 16 including the Electoral Reform Society, the Labour Party, Green Party and Scottish National Party.

This opinion piece from The Economist also makes the case for votes at 16, concluding that:

“A lower voting age would strengthen the voice of the young and signal that their opinions matter. It is they, after all, who will bear the brunt of climate change and service the debt that paid for benefits, such as pensions and health care, of today’s elderly. Voting at 16 would make it easier to initiate new citizens in civic life. Above all, it would help guarantee the supply of young voters needed to preserve the vitality of democracy. Catch them early, and they will grow into better citizens”

© 2002-2024 Tutor2u Limited. Company Reg no: 04489574. VAT reg no 816865400.