Case for lowering voting age to 16 debated by West Sussex’s youth cabinet

West Sussex's Youth Cabinet held a debate on lowering the voting age to 16, which was attended by county councillors and MPs
West Sussex's Youth Cabinet held a debate on lowering the voting age to 16, which was attended by county councillors and MPs

West Sussex youth cabinet members have debated lowering the voting age to 16 at County Hall earlier this month.

A lively discussion, attended by senior county councillors and MPs, saw passionate and informed speeches made on both sides.

Votes at 16 is one of two key campaigns for the youth cabinet, which is made up of 11-18-year-olds who were elected by their peers to represent all young people in West Sussex.

Youth cabinet member Will Nyss kicked off the debate on Thursday September 6, by arguing: “Have you ever wanted to make an impact? We do, however we can’t. This is unfair and unjust.”

Fellow youth cabinet member Ellis Brundle opened the argument against, before the floor was opened.

During an hour-long debate, arguments for included the fact that 16-year-olds can vote in Scotland and Wales but not in England and the frustration of being denied a voice in the EU referendum.

Those arguing against questioned if 16-year-olds had enough life experience and said 18 was the correct cut-off point.

A number of senior county councillors said they had been swayed in favour on the strength of the arguments.

Speaking in favour of the motion, Paul Marshall, cabinet member for children and young people, said: “We should be promoting good governance of our country and we can only do this by encouraging young people to participate in the important issues that shape our services.”

Gillian Keegan, MP for Chichester, and Sir Peter Bottomley, MP for Worthing West, attended and joined in the discussion.

A vote was then taken, with a resounding victory in favour of the motion to give 16 and 17-year-olds the vote; 24 in favour, eight against and three abstentions.

Louise Goldsmith, leader of West Sussex County Council, praised the youth cabinet for an ‘excellent debate’, adding that she had been ‘inspired by contributions on both sides’.

Caroline Nicholls, high sheriff for West Sussex, told the young contributors that 15,000 people had elected them and their challenge was to ‘go out and make a difference now’.

From here, the youth cabinet will propose a formal motion for their senior counterparts to debate at their Full Council meeting later this year.

More information on West Sussex’s youth cabinet is available on the council’s website.