.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Missed Opportunities?

Wales has made headlines across the UK today on not one, but two issues and they are both good news stories. It is a moment to savour.

First and foremost of course is the remarkable performance from Newport County last night, who led Tottenham Hotspur for 82 minutes before succumbing to a late Harry Kane equaliser. The one-all draw was the least they deserved. A team that a few seasons ago were not even in the Football League, and who last season were struggling against relegation to the Conference, now face a replay at Wembley and a £700,000 windfall.

The other good news story is the decision by the Welsh Government to give the vote to 16 and 17 year olds at local council elections. This has been long mooted and reflects a similar provision for that age group in Scotland.

The arguments for this reform are many, including consistency of treatment (why should somebody who can leave school, seek full-time employment, be liable for tax and obtain a licence to drive a tractor not be be entrusted with the civic responsibility of voting?), and widening political participation. You can find more reasons here.

However, my concern is not with the thrust of this reform but its scope. Why stop at local elections? We know that the UK Government are not convinced of the case for widening the franchise but the Welsh Government clearly is and yet they have not sought to give 16 and 17 year olds the vote in Welsh Assembly elections.

Given that the franchise for both council and Assembly elections are identical, it seems inconsistent and confusing to try and divide them in this way. If 16 and 17 year olds are competent enough to vote for a local councillor then surely they should be able to do so for a Welsh Assembly Member.

My real concern is the effect this limited reform will have on motivations to vote. In my experience, 16 and 17 year olds are very rarely motivated by dog mess, broken pavements, the funding of social services and even the performance of local schools. They are slightly more motivated by the need for leisure facilities and public transport but don't always associate this with the council.

By way of contrast, politically aware teenagers are motivated by the environment, wider health issues such as smoking, drinking and air pollution, by the funding of further and higher education, the provision of sports facilities, transport provision, energy policy, social policy and of course jobs. All of these lie within the ambit of the Welsh Government and are far likely to encourage a young person to go and vote than the more mundane responsibilities of local councils.

So if this reform really is about extending the franchise, let's go the whole hog and allow 16 and 17 year olds to vote in Welsh Assembly elections as well.
Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?