Children call for right to vote

Date: 12th July 2016
Category: Civil Rights and Freedoms

Under-18s in the UK have protested against not being able to vote in the recent referendum on EU membership. The older demographic came out ahead of young voters who were overwhelmingly in favour of remaining part of the EU.

In a referendum that promises to define the country's political and economic landscape for generations to come, some young protesters took to the streets in objection to not being given a say in their future, despite the fact that they would be the most affected by the decision.

Prior to the referendum the proposal to allow 16- and 17-year-olds to take part in the vote was rejected by the lower House of Parliament. Had they been allowed to vote, the result is likely to have been entirely different, a survey has revealed. Some politicians continue to use generalised claims that under-18s should not get the right to vote because they are not interested in politics. But the opposite was demonstrated in Scotland's 2015 independence referendum in which 90 percent of young people registered to vote. Such a turnout prompted the voting age in Scotland to be lowered to 16.

A Guardian article has reported that groups of 16 and 17-year-olds have been outside Downing Street protesting about the result. Many displayed banners saying, "where was our vote?" and "it's our future". Several of the teenagers quoted the other rights they have at 16 and referenced the Scottish referendum, asking why they were not allowed to vote in a decision that would have a "huge impact on our futures".

In the recently published 2016 Concluding Observations issued by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, the Committee noted increasing demands from children for a right to vote from the age of 16 years and that in Scotland, voting age has been extended to 16 and 17 year olds for local and Scottish Parliament elections. The Committee has encouraged "the UK State party and devolved administrations to conduct consultations with children on the voting age."

In addition to civil rights concerns, the organisation Eurochild also called on the European Council to prioritise children's best interests in discussions this week on the outcome of the UK's referendum.