Headlines: March 3rd, 2003

Local councils are being urged to play a full part in consultations on the possible lowering of the voting age from 18 to 16. The call comes from the think tank the Local Government Information Unit which is a prominent supporter of the campaign for votes at 16. It is also calling for the age of candidature to be lowered to 18 from the present level of 21.It wants to ensure that local authorities and others take part in the consultations announced by the Electoral Commission, which the LGIU believes is an historic opportunity to modernise democracy and revive voter turnouts.

LGIU director, Dennis Reed said, “A powerful antidote to the feeling that young people are excluded from the political process would be to let them vote at 16 and stand as candidates at 18. Sixteen years olds have to pay tax. So on the old democratic principle of no taxation without representation, there can be no credible argument against this reform. The LGIU urges councils to play a full part in this consultation.”

Glyn Mathias, Electoral Commissioner and Chair of the Project Board, said the Commission had no preconceptions on the issue and would investigate the claim that reducing the minimum voting age would help to re-engage young people in the political process, but would also look at the arguments for keeping the voting age at its present level.

News of the review has also been warmly welcomed by the government. John Denham, Minister for Children and Young People, said young people were certainly not uninterested in the issues, but more needed to be done to involve them. The review will lead to the publication of a full report next year.