Why I Shouldn’t Have the Vote


By Megan Thresh

(As seen in Pegasus Pages, March 2014)

Labour & Lib Dems are trying to lower the voting age to 16, rather than 18.

Imagine as a parent being told to hand over the keys of your new, shiny car to your 16-year old for a test drive. They have been given no prior instructions – they can take that car wherever they would like, and no, you are not sitting in the passenger seat. In other words, they have full control. How optimistic are you feeling about the return of your vehicle?

If you would have felt reluctance at handing over control of your car to your teenager, on what planet would you feel comfortable handing over control at the polling booth? They have no understanding – they can do whatever they want, and no, you are not sitting in the passenger seat.

The recent law change making it compulsory for youths to remain in secondary education until the age of 18 means that there are very few working 16-year olds in Britain. Let’s face the facts; as a sixteen-year old, I am not earning or contributing to the state in any way, and it has little direct interaction with me – most importantly, the government does not demand that I pay tax. As one who does not pay tax herself, who am I to have a say in how state spending is distributed?  What right do I have to dictate how the working adults around me financially contribute to the government? As much as I hate to admit it, I give very little to the government in terms of contributing to the economy, and so do not see it fit to vote for a potential government.

The second reason for which 16-year olds should not be given the vote is the same reason that would make you hesitate in handing over the keys of your car: namely, their maturity. I am fully aware that I am being self-deprecating, but with the exception of very few, teenagers know nothing about politics! The lack of life-experience and political knowledge and its workings should be reason alone to not award the vote to those who are not competent. In addition, how many teenagers do you hear mentioning politics at the dinner table? Only a small percentage of teenagers would consider themselves even interested in their government – given the vote, how many would actually turn up to the polling booths? Surely Britain’s voter turnout percentage would plummet as thousands of apathetic youths prefer to stay in bed for the morning rather than haul themselves to the nearest polling station?

I know you will have all heard at one point or another some self-righteous youth pompously declare that ,“If I can die for the country, I can certainly vote in the government that sends me to battle.” Some teenagers may even believe that their ability to have sex and marry at this developing age also gives them the right to elect their government. My dears, my dears, it doesn’t.

Entering the armed forces at sixteen ensures that you have two years of training before you even see action; by the time you are risking life and limb, you have matured, and have earned the right to place your vote. Furthermore, both with entrance to the army and marriage (the latter of which I don’t think any of us would argue is a good idea in your formative, early teenage years), parental permission must be given, ensuring that these important decisions are supervised. Already the government appreciates that at this tender age teenagers must still be advised and guided by their parents, and the major step of placing your vote should be no exception.

Finally, in the instance that I should be given the vote, I should like to hold my head high and be proud to say that the youth of Britain earned their vote, that we wanted it, and worked for it. To say that we would be given it by politicians keen on using the easily swayed youth as voting fodder would be an outrage. If in the near future sixteen-year olds are given the vote, you can count on the fact that it is not in the name of a more egalitarian and democratic system, but to serve the purpose of parties who would target the impressionable youth with propaganda to gain a majority – that is not a movement I would support.

For all of the above reasons, I cannot possibly see it fit to give the vote to the indifferent, impressionable and irresponsible British youth.

Image: League of Women Voters in California on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

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