Sue Hayman, Member of Parliament for Workington, has spoken in support of extending voting franchise to 16 and 17 year olds, during a debate in Parliament on June 11th.
Labour called a Westminster Hall debate on the issue and Sue spoke of her experience of engaging with young people during her election campaign. Sue has also called for the further inclusion of politics in the National Curriculum.
Sue Hayman MP said: “Improving voter engagement is crucial to democracy in this country—I think we would all agree. Turnout in Workington at the general election was 65.6%, whereas as recently as 1992 it was more than 80%.
“One of the most worrying and disappointing responses I heard on the doorstep was when a young person told me that they were not registered. Often, they were not registered because they did not know that they had to register, because they had no idea how to go about it, or because they did not think that it was something they should be getting involved in. They felt that it was nothing to do with them—they knew nothing about politics and did not feel qualified to take part and vote.
“Important civic duties such as registering to vote and voting should be brought into the school curriculum. That way, children and young people will be given the confidence and understanding required to register and take part, as well as to understand why that is important and the effect on their daily lives.
“One of the things I enjoyed the most during the election campaign was taking part in school hustings. I was really impressed by the knowledge and passion that young people had for the subjects they were particularly interested in and cared about. We saw how passionately involved young people were in the Scottish referendum and the difference in turnout there; when the voting age was reduced to 16 in that referendum, and it was very successful. That has convinced me that the voting age should be reduced to 16, along with the active introduction of children to politics at school, through the national curriculum. The young people I saw at the hustings were so engaged and excited, but then so disappointed that they could not participate.
“I urge the Government to introduce children and young people to politics through the national curriculum and to reconsider the position on reducing the voting age to 16, because children and young people are interested and want to get involved. Such steps should be part of the solution to increasing both voter registration and participation. I urge the Government to look at this issue ahead of the EU referendum.”