Sixteen is the right voting age

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From: John Carmody

Royal Parade

Reading Edward Thomas’ views concerning the possibility of a change to the minimum voting age (November 17) I was reminded of my own experience as a young person at the time of the 1964 general election.

At that time I was 20 years old and living in Coventry where there were three parliamentary constituencies. Wishing to inform myself of the policies being debated I took virtually every available opportunity to attend public meetings organised by the main political parties.

One evening after having heard Harold Wilson (then opposition leader and destined soon to become prime minister) address a Labour Party gathering I walked a short distance to another venue where a Conservative campaign rally was drawing towards its conclusion and was just in time to hear a barnstorming speech by a young ambitious politician named Michael Hesseltine who was contesting the Coventry North constituency.

The late Ian Gow (later to become Eastbourne’s MP) was also on the platform that evening as he was contesting Coventry East, then held by the formidable Richard Crossman. Attending these meetings contributed significantly to my understanding of the issues facing our country at that time and I have great respect for politicians on both sides of the divide who helped me to evaluate my own opinions. On election day I worked as a poll clerk but my name was not on the electoral register as, despite the fact that I was in full time employment and paying income tax, I was deemed to be too young (and,therefore too ignorant) to be entitled to vote. In those days the minimum voting age was 21. Entitlement to vote in this country has evolved over a long period of time and in incremental stages. Women under the age of 30, for instance,did not gain the right to vote until 1928.

Although I did not question my exclusion from the right to vote 53 years ago I am now convinced that as soon as a young person is able to enter full time employment and,if earning sufficiently,liable to pay income tax he or she should be entitled to full democratic rights.

The principle of no taxation without representation is a sound one and this suggests that 16 is the appropriate minimum age for entitlement to vote.