Kent County Council is to formally write to the Prime Minister requesting that the voting age be lowered to 16, following a motion raised at Kent County Council today by Liberal Democrat Councillors Brian Clark (Maidstone South) and Rob Bird (Maidstone Central).
Proposing, Cllr Clark stated, "Following the recent referendum for Scottish independence where 16 was the minimum voting age, I am bringing this motion to county to open the debate more widely on the right for individuals to vote at 16 (a move which would affect more than 1.5 million teenagers in the UK)."
He mentioned that all political parties reach out to the elusive "young vote" only to ultimately find swathes of these younger voters "unmoved, unengaged and unreachable."
Central to the debate was the fact that 16 year olds can sign up to join the armed forces, legally marry and have children, pay taxes and national insurance or legally set up a company, but cannot vote in UK elections.
Kent County Council has traditionally encouraged young citizens to become involved with the political process, creating the Kent Youth County Council with 48 members and 12 community members elected across 12 districts. Furthermore, the county often hosts politics students on work experience and pupils from local schools observing public meetings.
With this track record in engagement as a backdrop, the motion received support from councillors from all political groups, with party politics mostly set aside, allowing for a refreshingly open debate in the chamber. The strongest opposition came from UKIP although two members of the group chose to speak in support.
The point was raised that at 16, prior to leaving for university or find work, voters would hold a view on issues affecting their local surroundings, and would likely be inspired to express those views at the ballot box. In turn, once they have cast their first vote, they would be more likely to continue in future years after leaving home..
Cllr Rob Bird added, "We have seen how many young people are interested and concerned about the political issues of the day and the potential implications for their futures. Rights and responsibilities come hand in hand; if we want our 16 and 17 year-olds to make a responsible contribution to 21st century society, then they deserve the right to help shape that society."
For: 56, Against: 17, Abstain 4