Voting at 16: Youth Council welcomes Bill to extend voting rights to people aged 16 and over
- over 128,000 young people aged 16 and 17 in Ireland could vote in any upcoming elections and referendums, if Bill passed
- young people aged 16 and 17 voting this week in Scottish and Welsh Parliament elections
The National Youth Council of Ireland (NYCI) – which represents organisations working with over 380,000 young people nationwide – has welcomed a Bill to be introduced by Thomas Pringle, TD, in the Dáil tomorrow (06.05.21), that would see voting rights extended to over 128,000* young people aged 16 and 17.
James Doorley, NYCI Deputy Director said: “NYCI supports the Voting at 16 Bill being proposed by Deputy Pringle. We have been calling for voting rights for 16 and 17 year olds since we launched our ‘New Age in Voting’ campaign in 2009, and this Bill is a positive step in the right direction. The Bill, if passed, would allow over 128,000 young people aged 16 and 17 to vote in future elections and referendums and to have a greater say in our democracy.”*
Scotland: all political parties now support votes at 16
“In Scotland, initially some political parties were opposed, but following a high turnout of over 75% and positive outcomes in terms of young people’s understanding and engagement in democracy, all political parties now support vote at 16,” added Mr Doorley.
Seven years since voting age extended in Scotland and “sky still hasn’t fallen in”
“It is now seven years since 16 and 17 year olds began voting in Scotland, and the sky still hasn’t fallen in. It is very positive that last year, the Welsh followed suit and for their Welsh (Senedd) Parliament elections, enfranchised 16 and 17 year olds. In fact, young people going to the polls in Scotland and Wales today show we have nothing to fear from electoral reform, and that democracy is strengthened when more citizens have a say and a stake,” continued Mr Doorley.
“We will continue to campaign on this issue and look forward to working with Deputy Pringle and all parties, to make extension of the voting age a reality,” concluded Mr Doorley.
More information about the campaign can be found at www.voteat16.ie
Interviews with young people
Young people available to speak about why the vote should be extended to 16 and 17 year olds.
For further information, please contact Daniel Meister, Communications Manager at NYCI on 087 781 4903 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to Editors:
National Youth Council of Ireland
The National Youth Council of Ireland (NYCI) is a membership-led umbrella organisation that represents and supports the interests of voluntary youth organisations and uses its collective experience to act on issues that impact on young people.
*Source: (Based on CSO projections http://www.cso.ie/px/pxeirestat/Database/eirestat/Profile%202%20-%20Ages/Profile%202%20-%20Ages_statbank.asp?sp=Profile 2 – Ages&Planguage=0 )
OTHER BACKGROUND INFORMATION ABOUT VOTES AT 16
Constitutional Convention voted in favour – promised referendum never materialised
NYCI campaigned for a change in the voting age in the lead up to the 2011 General Election and the Government at the time subsequently referred the matter to the Constitutional Convention. In 2013, the Constitutional Convention voted in favour of extending voting rights to 16 and 17 years olds.
However, as Mr Doorley explained: “Unfortunately, the Government failed to bring forward the promised referendum required to extend voting rights to young people aged 16 and 17 year olds in General and Presidential Elections and referenda. However, the extension of voting rights for local and European elections can be achieved by legislative change. In both 2017 and 2018 Senators Fintan Warfield and Lynn Ruane introduced legislation to extend voting rights to young people in time for the 2019 Local and European elections. On both occasions, these bills were frustrated and opposed by the then Government and some opposition parties.
“Our democracy is strengthened when participation is broadened, that is the lesson from the evolution of the electoral and democratic process. Voting rights were extended beyond landholders and property owners in the 19th Century, to women in the early 20th century and as recently as 1972 we extended voting rights to 18 to 20 year olds.”
Arguments used to disenfranchise women now being used against youth
“Many of these reforms were bitterly resisted at the time, indeed many of the arguments made against extending voting rights to women are the same as those presented against this proposal. The view that 16 and 17 year olds are not sufficiently informed, have no interest in voting or will be easily manipulated are as daft now as when they were when made in the early 20th century against giving the vote to women. This legislation not only will extend the franchise to 126,000 young people but will renew and refresh our democracy as previous reforms have done,” continued Mr Doorley.
The NYCI held a seminar on Votes at 16 in 2016 with presentations on the positive impact of extending voting rights in Scotland. A representative from the Scottish Youth Parliament detailed that apart from the very high 75% turnout in the Scottish referendum among 16 and 17 year olds, many more young people were discussing politics with their peers and family, the level of participation of young people in local community life and politics has increased, and an increase in the number of young people studying politics at third level has also been seen.