Votes at 16 is a campaign in the United Kingdom which argues in favour of the reduction of the voting age to 16 for all public elections. The campaign espouses several principles in favour of lowering the voting age.[1]

Votes at 16 Coalition
Formation23 January 2003

Votes at 16 CoalitionEdit

The Votes at 16 Coalition is a national group of major UK youth organisations, political parties and other supporters that campaign for 16 and 17 year olds to be able to vote in all UK public elections.[2][3] The coalition is led by a steering group of active members who include the British Youth Council, the Children's Rights Alliance for England, The Co-operative Group, the National Union of Students and the Scottish Youth Parliament. This group of organisations have been campaigning on Votes at 16 for a number of years and meet regularly to plan and develop the campaign. Other member organisations of the coalition consist of the Electoral Reform Society, YMCA, the National Youth Agency and the European Youth Forum among many more.

Current members organisationsEdit

Parliamentary activityEdit

Aside from youth organisations, The Votes at 16 coalition has a vast supportive network of politicians who have backed the call to lower the voting age to 16 in the UK. These politicians range from local UK councils, Members of Parliament, Lords, and Members of European Parliament to Members of Scottish Parliament, Members of Legislative Assembly and Welsh Assembly Members.

In 2008 members of the coalition met a few MPs ahead of the second reading of the Voting Age (Reduction) Bill in the UK Parliament, but the bill was talked down by Stewart Jackson, Conservative MP for Peterborough.[4] The Labour Party's Conference in 2008 voted to accept the recommendation of Labour's National Policy Forum to support Votes at 16.[5]

A number of attempts were made to bring forward Bills to reduce the voting age including Jim McMahon's Private Members Bill Representation of the People (Young People's Enfranchisement and Education) Bill 2017-19, which again was talked out when it received its Second Reading in 2017.[6]

UK Youth Parliament debate (2009–present)Edit

Since 2009, the UK Youth Parliament (UKYP) has held an annual debate at the Houses of Parliament led by the Speaker of the House of Commons. Members of Youth Parliament debate five issues chosen by ‘Make Your Mark’, a ballot of young people from across the UK, and vote to decide which two issues should become the UKYP priority campaigns for the year ahead.[7]

Votes at 16 is a reoccurring issue that has been selected as one of the top five topics multiple times since 2011, the most recent being in 2018, with over 80,000 11–18-year-olds voting in favour of the campaign.[8]

Out of the five times Votes at 16 has been brought to debate, it has been chosen as a UKYP priority campaign a total of four times and is currently the lead UK wide campaign for 2019.[9]

Scottish independence referendum (2014)Edit

The Scottish National Party (SNP), who are currently in government in Scotland, have officially called for the voting age to be lowered to 16 and lowered the voting age to 16 for the referendum on Scottish Independence. However, when the SNP put forward a motion in the Scottish Parliament for a second independence referendum on the 28 March 2017, the party omitted the right for 16 and 17 year-olds to be able to vote in it. This led to the Scottish Greens putting forward an amendment to the proposal to allow those age 16 and 17 to be able to vote in a second Scottish independence referendum. The proposal for a second independence referendum, along with the amendment to lower the voting age for it, was passed by the majority of MSPs in the Scottish Parliament.[10][11][12]

Voting age lowered to 16 for Scottish elections (2015)Edit

In 2015 the voting age for Scottish local elections and Scottish Parliament elections was reduced to 16 after a bill was passed unanimously in the Scottish Parliament.[13] This was in place for the first time at the 2016 Scottish Parliament election.

Westminster Hall Debate (2019)Edit

On 3 April 2019, a Westminster Hall Debate was held on the issue, put forward by Jim McMahon[14] who in 2017 tabled a Private Members’ Bill on votes at 16. He said: “Less than 50 years ago, 18, 19 and 20-year-olds were denied the right to vote [...] Our democracy and our franchise have always been evolving.” He later added that it was “scandalous” MPs have not voted on the issue.[15] Minister for the Constitution, Chloe Smith, said it would not be given further consideration as lowering the age would break the Conservative Party manifesto.[14]

Votes at 16 All Party Parliamentary GroupEdit

The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Votes at 16 is a group of cross-party Members of Parliament allowing parliamentarians to meet to discuss a lower voting age, first established in March 2018. The purpose of the APPG is to bring together key voices from across Parliament to listen to evidence on the case for votes at 16, and to present this evidence to the Government.[16]

The APPG currently has Co-Chairs from the major parties. They are Peter Bottomley, Vicky Foxcroft, Alison Thewliss, Wendy Chamberlain, Liz Saville-Roberts and Caroline Lucas.[16]

The APPG's secretariat is the British Youth Council.[16]

At the APPG's AGM held on Tuesday 2 April 2019, the Group published a Campaign Report reflecting on progress over the previous year.

Voting age lowered to 16 for Welsh elections (2019–2020)Edit

The Welsh Assembly signalled its support for Votes at 16 and included the issue in a wider consultation on local government reform in 2019.[17] In January 2020, legislation was passed to reduce the voting age to 16 for local elections and Senedd elections in Wales,[18] which was active for the first time in the May 2021 Senedd election.[19]


  1. ^ "Votes at Sixteen Campaign". Votes at 16. Archived from the original on 6 June 2003.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  2. ^ "Votes At 16". Archived from the original on 21 November 2007.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  3. ^ "Coalition members – Votes at 16". Retrieved 29 April 2019.
  4. ^ "MPs debate 'votes at 16' proposal". BBC News. 6 June 2008.
  5. ^ "Labour backs votes at 16 for next election". Young Labour (United Kingdom). Retrieved 8 October 2008.
  6. ^ "Bill on voting at 16 falters". BBC News. 3 November 2017. Retrieved 9 July 2019.
  7. ^ "House of Commons Debate « UK Youth Parliament". Retrieved 29 April 2019.
  8. ^ "Make-Your-Mark-Infographic" (PDF). 29 April 2019.
  9. ^ "Young people should vote from the age of 16 « UK Youth Parliament". Retrieved 4 April 2019.
  10. ^ Scottish Parliament votes in favour of a second independence referendum. New Statesman. Published 28 March 2017. Retrieved 27 April 2017.
  11. ^ Scottish parliament votes to back independence referendum despite Theresa May saying 'now is not the time'. Daily Mirror. Published 28 March 2017. Retrieved 27 April 2017.
  12. ^ Our amendment for this week's crucial Holyrood debate and vote on a fresh Scottish independence referendum. Scottish Green Party (official website). Published 21 March 2017. Retrieved 27 April 2017
  13. ^ "Cut in Scottish voting age passed unanimously". BBC News. 18 June 2015. Retrieved 1 March 2021.
  14. ^ a b "Votes at 16 - Hansard". Retrieved 4 April 2019.
  15. ^ "'Let 16-year-olds vote to catch up with modern age'". Evening Standard. 4 April 2019. Retrieved 4 April 2019.
  16. ^ a b c "All Party Parliamentary Group on Votes at 16". British Youth Council. Retrieved 4 April 2019.
  17. ^ "Reducing the voting age to 16". National Assembly for Wales. Retrieved 29 April 2019.
  18. ^ "Welsh Assembly grants vote to 16 and 17-year-olds". BBC News. 27 November 2019. Retrieved 12 January 2020.
  19. ^ "Votes at 16 in Wales: both a historic event and a long-term process that requires a commitment to supporting young people's democratic education". 2 August 2021.

External linksEdit