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How young is too young to vote, asks Croydon teen

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CROYDON North elected a new MP last week but when voters went to the polls, should 16 and 17-year-olds have been able to join them? Amy Jones, herself 16, explores the argument. EIGHTEEN is the age where you are officially seen as an adult, being allowed to drink, leave school and smoke.

However, 16-year-olds are able get married, raise a child, or join the Army. We can also work; therefore you can pay taxes that go to the government. Still, you can't vote until you're 18.

Alex Salmond, the First Minister for Scotland, has invited 16 and 17-year-olds to vote on Scotland's independence, a decision which has sparked much debate.

Philip Cowley, a professor of parliamentary government at Nottingham University, believes that 16 and 17-year-olds are not "mature" enough to vote.

Kate Shillabeer, 16, who lives in Addington, agrees. She said: "The majority of 16-year-olds don't care enough to inform themselves."

Professor Vernon Bogdanor, of King's College, London, is among those who thinks lowering the voting age will encourage teenagers to take an interest in politics.

Hannah Sherrard Owen, 16, of Wallington, agrees. She said: "We have lived long enough to understand the impact political policies have on us, whether that be in healthcare, tax, or education.

"The next government's resolutions will affect us, especially when they feature university fees."

Dean Chalk, 15, from Croydon, believes that 16-year-olds should only be able to vote if they do well in their exams. He added: "There should at least be some kind of academic entry point, like you need an A or B in some subjects at GCSE level to be able to vote.

"Otherwise some people might not know what they're talking about or voting for."

Some political analysts say lowering the vote could help flagging turnout. The 65.1 per cent of eligible voters who bothered to have their say in the 2010 general election was an all-time low.

If we allow 16 and 17-year-olds to vote, we could add a group of about half a million open young minds to the process.

Croydon South MP Richard Ottaway, however, believes lowering the voting age would be "inappropriate".

He said: "In my opinion, boys and girls at that age do not have the maturity, judgement or experience to decide the future direction of the country.

"That is not to say that there aren't many articulate young people who feel passionately about issues that affect their peers and their communities.

"Nor is it fair to say that adults make good use of their right to vote – in my view, there are too many who don't engage in politics and don't even bother to vote.

"But even the scientists tell us the brain only reaches maturity in the late 20s."

Perhaps Mr Ottaway has a point. More than half of the population aged 18 to 24 didn't vote in the last elections – so why should we grant the vote to an even younger age group?

Amy's view After seeing both sides of this issue, I find it hard to fall one way or the other on it. I feel that the minimum age you're able to vote is an extension of the 'convenient' legal age, which defines someone as an adult. It seems that as soon as you turn 16, it becomes acceptable to double the price of an off-peak train ticket from East Croydon to Brighton from £5 to £10 for the same journey. However, that obviously doesn't mean that, at 16, you're responsible enough to affect the way the country is governed. Many people of my age have no interest in learning about the way the country is run. This tells me that given the choice, my peers would probably not vote. If anything, it is more the 'not-having-it' rather than the 'need-to-change' that makes my peers want the vote. My opinion is that the world of national politics is so removed, it is not relevant to us. Given that most of the services used by the us are things like transport, education, parks, maybe more interest would be sparked if we could contribute to local government instead. It is not that I do not feel that my age group is incapable of voting. There is merely a lack of motivation in the majority to inform themselves about what they could change by simply drawing a cross on a slip of paper. Because, surely, as long as they are given the concept and the suitable information to form a decision, anybody could vote?

How young is too young to vote, asks Croydon teen


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