The voice of young people in West Sussex matters. That was the message as West Sussex county councillors voted to support lowering the voting age to 16.
At today’s full council meeting (Friday, April 5), a motion created by the West Sussex Youth Cabinet backing 16 and 17 year olds to have a say in local elections was debated and approved.
It marks a major breakthrough for the Youth Cabinet in their ‘Votes at 16’ campaign following months of hard work.
In September 2018, teenage members impressed senior councillors and MPs when debating the key issue in the cabinet chamber, drawing support and paving the way for today’s discussion.
The current voting age for general and local elections in England, Wales and Northern Ireland is 18.
In 2015 Scotland lowered its voting age to 16 and the Youth Cabinet argue this should be extended to the whole UK, with the Welsh Assembly considering the change by 2021.
Their motion argues that 16 and 17 year olds are well equipped to participate in elections and have so far been denied the chance to vote on key issues like the EU Referendum and tuition fees that affect their lives.
Ellie Roberts, Youth Cabinet chairman, said: “It’s so important that our Votes at 16 Campaign has been heard and supported by councillors, it shows that the voice of youth matters in West Sussex.
“At 16 we can get married or enter a civil partnership, serve in the armed forces, pay tax and make other key decisions but currently we don’t get a say on who runs our councils and government. We think that’s wrong and it’s great that senior councillors think the same.”
The decision means West Sussex County Council now formally supports giving 16 and 17 year olds the vote in local West Sussex elections, followed at a future date by national elections.
The council will now lobby West Sussex MPs and the Government to support its proposals.
Members of West Sussex Youth Cabinet are aged 11-18 and are elected by their peers to represent the voice of all young people in the county.
To find out more about the Youth Cabinet visit: www.westsussex.gov.uk/education-children-and-families/your-space/participate/youth-cabinet/