Blogpost by Dr Kalbir Shukra, Goldsmiths University, Evaluating the Young Mayor Programme
The Young Mayor and Young Advisors are continuing to meet every Monday during the lock down though of course they have to do it virtually. This week the topic for discussion was Votes at 16 as there is a petition being put forward to the Government by the Votes at 16 Coalition next week.
There is information about the Votes at 16 coalition’s petition on https://www.lewishamyoungmayor.com/post/votes-at-16-coalition-get-involved.
Lewisham Young Mayor Programme has been calling for Votes and 16 for 10 years and since 2004, Lewisham has given all its young people age 11-17 the right to vote in annual Young Mayor elections!
This means that there are hundreds of young people in the borough with deep experience as election candidates and campaigners. Every year, approximately 10 000 young people cast their vote in an election that is run like adult elections. It’s a real experience of taking part in an election that, according to one Lewisham young representative gives people experience in voting … it almost prepares them for what they’ll actually do when they reach 18.
The advisors were in favour of votes at 16 being made consistently available in national and local elections all across the UK. Here are just a few things that people in the meeting said about what giving young people a vote would mean:
It gives them a chance to have their say on who runs the country
It increases their confidence and independence
It would change the fact that 16 year olds can have a child but then can’t make decisions around how the government should be running things for your child… or that you can’t go in a polling station
When we talked about whether local authorities should be given the power to decide who votes in local elections, Young Advisors were mindful that this could lead to local differences, inconsistency in the region and inequality in voting rights:
I’m in a borough that where the Mayors would support it (votes at 16) but because I know not all boroughs are like that, I feel it should be put to parliament. If that decision goes then it should go for everybody. If it doesn’t get decided we’ll keep campaigning, we’ll keep protesting.
The Mayor of London should get a say on who gets to vote in London… so that you don’t get differences in the boroughs
Young Advisors had ideas on what more could be done with schools and colleges too. Some thought that more could be done to involve SEND children in learning about democracy and citizenship. Young Advisors are interested in following up their current work with SEND young people. Young advisors also thought that generally citizenship teaching could focus on fun and interactive sessions on the topic. Being more interactive and fun might help people learn without the pressures of SATS.
Young Advisors Trips to parliament and making films about politics were viewed positively and it was suggested more of these might be offered by schools too.