Monday, 17 July 2017

*BREAKING* Votes@16 in Wales?

Starting today, Welsh government are introducing a consultation on electoral reform, designed to make voting more accessible and more available. It's to be a 12 week consultation, with some fairly major changes being discussed. 
When it's all said and done, it looks to implement the biggest change to the Welsh electoral system since 1970 - when the voting age was lowered to 18. 

Here are the highlights of the new Local Government Bill:
  • 16-17 year olds given the right to vote in council elections, under powers given to the Welsh National Assembly under the Wales Act
  • Councils given the right to determine whether they implement a First-Past-The-Post system, or a Single Transferable Vote
  • Electronic voting at polling stations, and mobile polling stations
  • Welsh Government are examining whether all foreign citizens resident in Wales should have the right to vote in local elections
  • A "root and branch" review of town and community councils
You will have heard this blog demand Votes@16 for a long time now. Theresa May and the Tories are the only major six party to oppose it. Cabinet Secretary for Local Government Mark Drakeford, agrees: "There’s no reason why 16 and 17 year olds can marry, pay taxes and join the army but can’t vote in our elections." With turnout of 18-24 year olds at a high in the last general election - around 55%, and turnout of Scottish youngsters in the Scottish referendum at a huge 77%, there is no better time. 

However as British Youth Council chair of Trustees Anna Rose Barker states, "what is severely lacking is the government's response to young people" . She is correct. UK politics seems to view young people as a nice sub-section, and a group to meet to tick a box, not a group of people, who want to be listened to. 

And voting rights for 16-18s is all well and good, but it feels a little like Welsh Government are fumbling around trimming branches while the roots remain bad. There needs to be Votes@16, there also needs to be PSHE lessons for young people, taught in schools, so they grow up as Voters, that the young people in Wales learn the benefits of the youth vote. 

Young people are fed up of being talked about. 

Welsh Government are hopefully going to implement another step in changing that.

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