On Friday, a private members’ bill to reduce the voting age to 16 was debated in the House of Commons. Which countries already have votes at 16?
In 2007, Austria’s grand coalition lowered the voting age to 16 for general elections, a move that makes it the only country in Europe to allow 16-year-olds to vote in state-wide elections. The first election at which 16 and 17-year-olds could vote in was 2008's.
In Brazil, the minimum age to vote is 16, however, for voters between the ages of 18 and 70 it is compulsory to vote. This therefore excludes the youngest two years of voters.
Like Brazil, Argentina allows 16 and 17-year-olds to vote and has compulsory voting only for those aged 18-70. The country made the change in 2012 in order to boost political engagement, as reported by the BBC.
For general elections, the voting age in Estonia is 18, but for local elections 16 and 17-year-olds can vote. According to EER News, the change was made in 2015, however, in order for it to become constitutional it needs to be supported by the next parliament. Estonia's next election is due to take place in 2019.
In this year’s federal elections, only those 18 years of age and over could vote. As for the country’s state elections, a small number of states let 16 and 17-year-olds have a say in the democratic process. The city-state of Bremen made the change in 2011, as reported by Spiegel at the time.
North of the border, 16 and 17-year-olds were given the right to vote in the 2014 independence referendum. The voting age was subsequently lowered to 16 for Scottish parliamentary and local council elections. The recent move makes Scotland the only constituent nation of the United Kingdom where under-18s are allowed to vote.
Along with Guernsey, the minimum voting age on this Channel Island is 16. According to the Guardian, the island lowered the voting age in 2007. Jersey has a unicameral parliament, which is currently dominated by independents.
Will the UK allow 16 and 17-year-olds to vote in Westminster elections any time soon?
The answer to that question depends on one key thing. So long as the Conservatives are in charge, the voting age will not be lowered. If a future election leads to a Labour majority government, or a Labour minority with a progressive majority in the Commons (i.e. support from the Liberal Democrats, the Greens and the SNP) then votes at 16 could be just around the corner. Watch this space.
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