Extend voting rights to 16 & 17 year olds
NYCI has promoted the active citizenship and democratic participation of young people for many years. We have advocated for a Vote at 16 since 2009, have engaged a number of campaigns and actions to support youth voter registration and turnout and called for Government to change the electoral system to support and promote to register to vote and participate in elections and referenda.
NYCI calls on Government to bring forward a referendum to extend voting rights to young people aged 16 and 17 in Dáil and Presidential elections and referenda and to bring forward legislation to extend voting rights to young people aged 16 and 17 in local and European elections.
NYCI has been advocating for the extension of voting rights to young people aged 16 and 17 years since 2009, when we launched our “New Age in Voting” campaign. In January 2013 the Constitutional Convention following a submission and presentation from NYCI voted to support the introduction of voting rights for 16 and 17 year olds. The Government accepted this recommendation and up until December 2014 committed to bringing forward a referendum to allow 16 and 17 year olds citizens to vote. In January 2015 the Government reneged on this commitment and has yet to progress this proposal. NYCI is also disappointed that the Government and some opposition parties voted down a Bill which would have extended voting rights to young people aged 16 and 17 in the 2019 Local and European Elections.
While we are disappointed with the Government decisions and actions to date, NYCI is committed to campaigning and advocating for the introduction of the right to vote at 16. We will continue to argue for a change in legislation to extend voting rights for the local and European elections and call for a referendum to allow young people aged 16 and 17 to vote in referendums and Dáil and Presidential elections. We are calling on the next Government to hold a referendum in accordance with the decision of the Constitutional Convention on extending voting rights to young people and also to legislate to allow young people aged 16 and 17 years to vote in local and European elections.
Vote at 16
Change the law so that young people aged 16 and 17 years can vote!
NYCI calls on Government to establish and provide adequate resources to an Electoral Commission, with a specific mandate to support and promote voter registration and turnout among young people.
NYCI has actively promoted the participation of young people aged 18 years or over in the electoral process for many years. We have consistently organised campaigns to encourage and support young people to register to vote and to vote in all elections and referenda. We welcome the fact that voter turnout among young people aged 18-25 years has increased in recent years. The 2011 CSO report on voter participation found that 62% of young people aged 18-25 years voted in the 2011 General Election compared to 50% in the 2002 General Election.
While many aspects of the electoral system currently function well, one component of the system, namely the voter registration system is not fit for purpose in our view. The current system is under resourced, inconsistent and inaccurate. It was designed at a time when the vast majority of the population were born, raised and lived in the one area and remained there all of their lives. It was not designed or administered to easily capture a population which is highly mobile, especially a young mobile population. Our analysis would suggest that the means by which the register is currently compiled and organised is leading to the exclusion of greater numbers of young people. This is demonstrated by independent research by NYCI in both 1999 and 2014 which shows that the number of unregistered young people has doubled in 15 years. In 1999, 14% of young people aged 18-25 years not registered to vote compared to 30% aged 18-25 years who were not registered to vote in a poll conducted in 2014. Prior to the May 2018 referendum on repeal of the 8thAmendment we highlighted the fact that based on our survey of young people that up to 151,000 may not have been registered and eligible to vote in this referendum. Arising from the work of NYCI and a range of other organisations, including USI and student unions across the country, over 118,000 applied and were added to the supplementary register in advance of the May 2018 referendum.
The current process should be reformed urgently and therefore NYCI supports the establishment of an Electoral Commission and calls on the Government to establish this body with an initial mandate to reform of the electoral register and work to increase the number of registered voters, in particular young voters. However, it is vital that such the Electoral Commission is adequately resourced to undertake this important task. We also believe that the Commission should have both the capacity and resources to undertake research and to directly and indirectly support voter engagement and participation campaigns. There is limited data and research on how best to promote and support citizen engagement in the electoral process.