Votes at 16
CRAE wants the franchise to be extended to 16 and 17 year-olds. We have been campaigning for this since 2000 and in 2003 brought together interested youth-led organisations which led to the formation of the Votes at 16 coalition.
The right to participate in elections by universal and equal suffrage without distinction of any kind is protected by international law. Any restriction on the right to vote should meet international legal requirements based upon objective and reasonable criteria and constitute a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. We believe that the exclusion of 16 and 17 year-olds from voting in the UK does not meet these requirements.
At 16, young people can pay taxes, leave home, consent to medical treatment, get married or enter a civil partnership, join the armed forces and make lots of other major decisions. However, they are denied the basic rights of citizenship - they have no say in how the country is run, how their taxes are spent and whether the country goes to war. Lowering the voting age would send a clear and positive message to young people that their views count. It would provide a seamless transition from compulsory citizenship education to the opportunity to vote, avoiding what can be for some a seven year gap between their formal education about voting and their first national election.
Thousands of young people have expressed their support for Votes at 16. The majority consistently favour lowering the voting age and say this would increase the chances of politicians and decision-makers taking into account their views.
- In 2000, CRAE published the landmark pamphlet ‘The REAL Democratic Deficit - why 16 and 17 year-olds should be allowed to vote'. You can download this in our publications section.
- In 2003, we were the founding member of the Votes at 16 Coalition - a broad coalition of electoral reform organisations, youth-led organisations and major children's charities.
- In September 2004, we organised a fringe meeting on Votes at 16 at the Labour Party Conference, chaired by 17 year-old Jon Hudson from Article 12 (a child-led organisation). Over 100 young people attended.
- In May 2005, the Votes at 16 Coalition wrote to the three main political parties calling for the 2005 General Election to be the last election where 16 and 17 year-olds would be excluded from voting. The day before the election, we issued a press release calling for votes at 16. This received widespread media coverage. One of CRAE's young trustees, 16 year-old Damilola Ajagbonna, was interviewed on Radio 4's Today programme.
- In January 2006, we brought together 80 young people for a Parliamentary debate. They put forward their views on lowering the voting age to Harriet Harman MP, the Government Minister responsible for the issue at the time.
- During 2006, we lobbied Parliament for voting age reform during the passage of the Electoral Administration Act 2006.
- In June 2008, we supported Julie Morgan MP's Private Member's Bill to reduce the voting age to 16. The Bill had its second reading in the Commons but was talked out by a minority of opposition MPs. Through the Votes at 16 Coalition, we supported young activists to persuade the Labour Party's national policy forum to decide that the Party's next general election manifesto would include votes for 16 and 17 year-olds.
- In 2009, we worked with others to try and influence the investigation into votes at 16 carried out by the Youth Citizenship Commission. Our submission focused on the human rights arguments for extending the franchise to 16 and 17 year-olds.
- We are now working as part of the Votes at 16 coalition to try and extend the entitlement to vote in the "alternative vote" referendum to 16 and 17 year-olds.