16 and 17 year olds should be given the vote in all public elections, according to the UK Youth Parliament (UKYP), which has chosen ‘votes at 16’ as its national campaign for 2014.
Throughout April and May 2014, the Members of Youth Parliament here in Suffolk carried out face-to-face consultation via focus groups, online messaging services and an online survey. In total Suffolk UKYP gained the views of 519 people aged 11-18, with young people from all around the county represented. Full report available here.
We asked young people initially if they would vote at 16 if they could, the results showed 56% stating they would and 44% stating that they wouldn’t vote. For the young people who stated that they wouldn’t vote, it is a very poignant fact to mention that most of these entered a comment stating that if they felt knowledgeable and able to make an informed decision, then they would vote.
Suffolk UK Youth Parliament is one of the projects based within our Voice & Representation Team here at Community Action Suffolk, giving young people a voice throughout the county. They have 13 elected representatives with varying roles based around the seven constituencies. The Youth Parliament in Suffolk is gaining recognition and interest by many MPs, young people and organisations that want to have a say in matters that affect them, or support young people to do this.
The online survey was open to all young people under the age of 18 in Suffolk, and the focus groups were carried out in the following establishments: Lowestoft College, Samuel Ward Academy (Haverhill), Bury St. Edmunds County Upper School, Alde Valley High School, St. Josephs College Ipswich, Northgate High School Ipswich, Lowestoft Sixth Form College and Kesgrave High School. Every young person surveyed was 18 years old or younger, with 66% of surveyed respondents in the 14-16 age bracket.
The 2014 Youth Select Committee will embark on an inquiry into lowering the voting age to 16, where it will explore the issues and arguments around votes at 16. Youth Select Committee is a British Youth Council initiative, supported by the House of Commons. The eleven committee members are aged 14-18 and include three Members of the Youth Parliament (MYPs), one former MYP, three youth councillors, a representative from the Scout Association and one elected representative from each of the devolved nations. This initiative is supporting young people to hold inquiries into issues that young people care about to influence policies.
Baz Wilkinson, Senior Development Officer – Youth Participation
Amber Spearing, Support Worker for Suffolk Youth Parliament (UKYP)