It’s time 16-year-olds got the right to vote

PEOPLE as young as 16 should be given the right to vote, according to a new campaign by Camden s youngest councillor. Fred Carver became one of the country s youngest politicians when he was elected in 2006 at the age of 21

Katie Davies

PEOPLE as young as 16 should be given the right to vote, according to a new campaign by Camden's youngest councillor.

Fred Carver became one of the country's youngest politicians when he was elected in 2006 at the age of 21.

Now, two years on, he wants to get more young people into the political process.

"I don't think it's right to say that 16 and 17-year-olds aren't capable of making politically informed decisions," explained the councillor for the Cantelowes ward.

"When I was that age I had a real sense of frustration. I understood politics much better than many adults, but I wasn't allowed to get involved in it."

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Cllr Carver and his colleague Cllr Russell Eagling are asking the council to pressurise the government into lowering the voting age.

"They say 16 makes more sense given teenagers are legally able to get married, have sex and join the army at that age," he said.

"I don't buy the argument that younger people don't care enough. There will be some who don't and they just won't bother voting. By lowering the age we will allow those who are interested and do care to have their say.

"It may also be a cliche, but 16-year-olds are generally more enthusiastic and less jaded so it is a good time to get them interested and involved in politics.

"They will feel more ownership in their government. Even if it is a government you haven't voted for, at least you took part in the process. Sixteen is an age of legal responsibility so it makes sense."

The councillors' campaign centres on the fact that at 16 teenagers are legally allowed to do many things that require more responsibility than voting.

Cllr Eagling added: "If 16-year-olds can go to war, leave home, pay taxes and get a job then it should follow that they have a say in what is done at a political level.

"Those who work give money to the government, so they should have a say in what that money should do."

Ham&High reporter Stefanie MacDonald took to the streets of Camden Town and Hampstead to see what local people think about the idea of lowering the voting age to 16

o Student Maggie Choumbakis, 19, said: "I don't think that a 16-year-old is at the maturity level to be able to vote. I definitely think that 18 is a better age."

o Rachel Farris, 17, is a student from Edinburgh. She said: "I don't agree with it. Most 16-year-olds don't know enough about politics and if they do they are already involved in some kind of youth committee or something."

o Nina Nichols, 17 is also a student from Edinburgh. She said: "I don't think a 16-year-old would fully understand the gravity of what they were doing when they voted."

o James Barker, a 51-year-old environmental worker from Suffolk, said: "I think it would be a good idea. It would allow young people to engage with the society they are living in. They should feel like their opinions are just as important as an adult's. Young people need to be shown some respect, especially when they show their concern about issues like alcohol and violence and the future of our world with global warming."

o Susan Burcell, a 71-year-old helpline counsellor, said: "I wouldn't like it. They aren't mature enough, not well informed. I don't think they care enough either. I wouldn't trust a big vote on young people."

o Student Josh Jacobs, 30, said: "I think it's a bad idea because young people aren't conscious enough about how politics works, at least the average 16-year-old isn't."

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