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Government Government

Keep the minimum voting age at 18

Last updated: 03:04pm 22 November 2019

We will retain the current franchise to vote in parliamentary elections at eighteen.

Conservative Party Manifesto 2017, p.43

Our verdict

In the UK, you must be 18 or over to vote in a general election or by-election for an MP to represent you at Westminster. However, many organisations and political parties have called for this to change in recent years. The Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats, the Green Party and the Scottish National Party all promised to lower the voting age to 16 in their 2017 manifestos. This policy pledge from the Conservative Party is a promise to keep 18 as the minimum voting age.

In response to pressure from other parties to lower the voting age for the December 2019 election, the Prime Minister’s spokesperson argued in favour of maintaining the current age limit because “18 is widely recognised as the age people become an adult. Below the age of 18 you are treated as a minor in both the foster care system and the criminal justice system”. An amendment to the general election bill which would have seen the voting age lowered to 16 was put forward by a Labour MP on the 29th of October but was not chosen for discussion by the deputy speaker.

In Scotland, 16 and 17-year-olds can vote on issues only affecting Scotland; they were notably given a vote in the 2014 referendum on Scottish independence, and since 2015 have been able to vote in elections for the Scottish Parliament and Scottish local government. Wales is in the process of debating a reform which would see the “minimum voting age of National Assembly elections [lowered] to 16.”

This policy refers to parliamentary elections for Westminster. At the general election on 12 December 2019, the minimum voting age will be 18. The government has maintained its stance and kept its promise, so this pledge can be marked as ‘done.’

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