Should there be a maximum voting age? - Rachel Ellen

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Should there be a maximum voting age?

Last year brought two shock election results. Many young people are blaming the over 65s for the way the results have turned out, does this mean they are too old to vote? Read on to find out.

On the 23rd June 2016, I voted for the first time at 22 years of age. I was excited, brimming with hope that my vote would make a difference to my future.

On the 24th June, I woke up to a result that I, the polls, and many politicians didn’t expect. In case you have been living under a rock, that result was for Britain to leave the European Union.

When the polls started feeding through the internet, I was shocked and slightly frustrated to see how different age groups had voted.

In two big elections, last year (Brexit and the US Presidential Election) the over 65s have voted vastly different to the younger generation. In Brexit 75% of 18-24s voted remain, but only 39% of those 65+.

In the US election, only 37% of 18-29s voted for Trump, whereas 53% of the 65+ category voted for him. This has created a lot of doubt in the system.

With people living longer and the baby boomers now between the ages of 52 and 70, the older generation is a growing population. The over 65s are the generation that has the highest turnout of voters and many young people are feeling as though their vote has a lower impact.

Following Brexit, there was a wave of media reports and Tweets complaining about the older generation. Headlines in the press included: “EU Referendum Results: Young ‘Screwed By Older Generations” from the Huffington Post and “How old people have screwed over the younger generations’…” from the Independent.

Some tweets from the public are shown below.

Maximum voting age

The older generation were deemed to be “to blame” for, what is assumed to be the “wrong” decision. This is under the assumption that the younger generation overall voted for the “right” choice.

Do people really feel as though these democratic rights should be stripped away once you hit a certain age? Harry Taylor 23, a History and Politics graduate said: “To stop and deny people voting based on age, something beyond their control would be an affront to democracy.

“They (the older generation) will vote in far more restrictive ways and arguably less progressive ways compared to a younger generation, and I think that’s led to a lot of cause for older people to be stopped.”

In an exclusive survey of 94 people ran by myself, 16.3% said they thought there should be a maximum voting age, the suggestions of that age ranged from 60-80.

One person said that the maximum voting age should be 65: “because it isn't their future.” However, the average life expectancy in the UK is 81, this would mean some people living for 16 or more years without the ability to vote, so how many years do you have to have left to be deemed to have a future?

Taylor said: “Yes in an ideal world they (the 18-24s) might go and live the entirety of the rest of that parliament where those decisions will be taken, therefore they’ll see the benefit or the downsides whereas somebody who’s 80/70 might not. However that’s based on an ideal world”

If the maximum voting age was 65, should we then also have a maximum candidate age. Hillary Clinton is 69 and Donald Trump is 70, they therefore would not be able to vote. Would younger candidates and younger voters represent the country better, or show lack of experience and knowledge?

Judging by the survey results, the consensus is that there shouldn’t be a maximum age on voting, and after all, isn’t this the result we all expected. “I don’t agree with the older persons voting tendencies, but I think it’s a basic human right to be able to vote,” said one respondent.

The argument that being unable to vote is against our human rights is a common thread that keeps coming up. Producer Stephen Robert Morse shared his view on Twitter.

If this was to happen, who would decide who is “old”, and should therefore, would everyone need do a competence test. We may then only have those with higher education voting, and this does not represent the whole of the British public. To have rules on who is “capable” of voting, would affect our democratic stance.

This maybe is the view of many people, many who complained about the way the generation voted, but would not take away their right to vote. But if it is a basic human right to vote, shouldn’t 16 and 17 year olds be allowed to vote?

Minimum Age

In the poll, people were also asked what they think the minimum voting age should be. 45.7% said that the voting age should remain at 18, whilst 40.4% felt the age should be lowered to 16. Out of those that voted that the age should reduce to 16, 11.6% of those felt there should be a maximum voting age.

If this age group had voted we could have had an entirely different set of results. But with the 18-24 group only having a 36% turnout for Brexit, compared to an 83% turnout of 65+. Would a 16-17-year-old vote make a difference? Surely just a higher turnout could change the results as there was just under 1.3 million difference in the votes.

But are under 18s classed as adults? From 2015, children must stay in full time education until they are 18, many of their decisions need parental consent, for example, marriage and joining the army.

One person surveyed said: “If lowered to 16 I think you would get a lot of immature people voting wrongly and for the wrong reasons” but many people surveyed do not agree and think that 16 year olds are mature enough to vote for our country.

How can people campaign for a younger voting age whilst also excluding such a large proportion of the population?

Age discrimination

With the result of Brexit and the presidential election, many people feel we have taken a step back and have opened our society up to much more discrimination and racism. 
So why are these same people asking for a cut in who can vote.

Some people have said that voters are sulking that the decision hasn’t gone the way they expected and they are looking for someone to blame.

Young people are overwhelmingly looking for someone to blame for the way this election turned out. They feel as though they have been failed by their government and by their own family members.

But wouldn’t we rather live in a democratic society where there is no maximum age to vote, albeit terrible decisions that may be made.

To have an upper age limit on voting is a short-sighted opinion. This would massively cut down the numbers of people voting and would not represent the entire population. It would be disregarding decades of life experience and knowledge.

It is clear from our survey results that the majority of people, in any age group, don’t wish for a maximum voting age. But the divide in voting between the age groups is clear.

Young people looking for someone to blame for elections results should perhaps look towards those who don’t vote. With 64% of 18-24s not turning out to vote in Brexit and 11.7% in our survey (7.4% of those were under 25), the results could have been entirely different with a higher turnout.

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