Can 16- and 17-year-olds be trusted to vote? In August 2016, the minimum voting age in Greece for national elections was lowered to 17. In Austria, the limit is even lower at just 16 years; in Croatia and Slovenia, 16-year-olds can vote if they’re employed, and in Hungary 16-year-olds can vote if they’re married.
Most EU Member States, however, have set the voting age at 18. There are campaigns to have it lowered in various countries, and supporters argue that young people will ultimately be the ones dealing with the consequences of today’s political decisions, so it’s right for them to have a say. Furthermore, lowering the voting age might go some way towards boosting turnout among young voters (which, in some EU countries, is appallingly low). On the other hand, critics argue that 16-year-olds don’t yet have a full understanding of political issues and consequences, and might be easily swayed by peer pressure or extremist arguments.
What do our readers think? We had a comment sent in from Mihaela on our ‘Suggest a Debate’ page, asking whether the voting age should be lowered to 16 across Europe.
Should 16-year-olds be given the vote? We asked Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) from all sides of the political spectrum to stake out their positions on this question, and it’s up to YOU to vote for the policies you favour. See what the different MEPs have to say, then vote at the bottom of this debate for the one you most agree with! Take part in the vote below and tell us who you support in the European Parliament!
One needs to have certain level of experience to vote responsibly. Therefore I think the current threshold of 18 years is well-placed. But at the same time we should encourage young voters to make full use of their right to express themselves through elections.
Paul Nuttall (EFDD), Leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP) (NOTE: We contacted EFDD MEPs for comment but they did not reply in time for publication. The below is from a statement made by Paul Nuttall):
Sixteen-year-olds do not have enough life experience to make sound judgements when voting and consequently I am against reducing the age limit… Naive youngsters tend to have utopian dreams of life and can be more gullible. They are also subjected to pro-EU propaganda lessons which is a ethically wrong and is also an abuse of taxpayers money.
As they grow older and experience first hand making their way in the world they are better able to make reasoned judgements. I personally believe that all secondary school children should be taught about our political system in an unbiased way as currently so many leave school without any idea of how it works and what the different parties stand for. There is no doubt that young people should be encouraged to vote, after all today’s changes affect their tomorrows, but instead of lowering the age limit they should be properly educated about the relevance of politics to their lives.
Curious to know more about voting at 16? We’ve put together some facts and figures in the infographic below (click for a bigger version).IMAGE CREDIT: CC / Flickr – Adam Scotti
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