Interview: Lily Linke on Lowering the Voting Age to 16 in the UK

After lots of discussion recently about whether 16 and 17-year-olds should be able to vote, teenager Lily Linke started an online petition to call for the voting age to be lowered to 16. We interviewed her about the petition. What made you decide to start a petition? – The EU referendum had made me notice, for the first time, how much politics really affects the younger generations. My own frustration and the frustration of people around my age (13 – 18) at the referendum result was what really fuelled the decision as many of us felt that the older voters had dramatically altered our future without regard for what would be right for us. According to the BBC, 73% of 18-24 year olds voted Remain, they are the youngest group able to vote, and the group that the results would affect the most. But were out voted by people who have already been through the majority of their lives, bought their houses, had children, travelled and worked, the people who the results wouldn’t affect. Only 40% of those 65 and above voted remain. To me and many others, this seems unfair. I feel that if 16 and 17 year olds were able to vote and were therefore more involved in politics, the result would have been very different. Another reason why I decided to start this petition was my realisation that so few young people get involved in politics. The education systems that young people are a part of depend on the government and what they decide. If they cut the money going towards education, our schools may have to cut subjects. Many people within my school were furious that GCSE drama had been stopped but didn’t understand that the school had no choice, they just weren’t getting enough money from the government. If 16 and 17 year olds could vote, I think it would allow them and those younger than them to get more involved in how their country is governed and start caring about changing things for the better.

How would you describe your feelings on hearing that the country had voted to leave the EU?

– I don’t want this petition to be too much about the referendum as there are 16 and 17 year olds who would’ve voted Leave. But I was disappointed in Britain for believing the lies spread about how much money was being spent as a ‘membership fee’ and for succumbing to offensive, untrue generalisations about immigrants and refugees. The so-called membership fee is an investment, the EU pours money into financially neglected areas in Britain and supports us in trade agreements along wth many other things. Moreover, keeping multiculturalism alive within Britain is massively important, many voted Leave, cursing immigrants, as they reaped the benefits of Britain’s diverse communities. Having open borders is beneficial to us and by leaving the EU, we are moving backwards into a place without multicultural societies and friendly communication.

One of the arguments often given in response to suggestions that 16/17 year olds should have the vote is that they don’t have enough ‘life experience’ to make an informed decision – how would you respond to this? 16 and 17 year olds are considered experienced enough by the government to give full medical consent, leave school to enter employment, pay income tax, obtain tax credit and welfare, have sexual relations, get married or enter a civil partnership and join the armed forces. If a 16 year old is experienced and qualified enough to get a job, pay tax, deal with their money, enter serious relationships and even die for their country, then there is no doubt that they should be considered competent enough to vote. They have also experienced the majority of their education and have used the National Health Service, the policies regarding these two aspects of UK life can decide whether or not a party is voted in. 16 year olds being the most involved in the education system, preparing for A-levels and university, having completed their GCSE’s will, along with teachers, have the most reliable and immediate knowledge of what is right for school life. The majority of parents don’t understand the levels and standardised testing we have today making it difficult for them to make judgements on education policies. 16 and 17 year olds bring their experience of starting out in the world and combine it with the longer life experience from older generations. Just because a person has lived longer, it doesn’t mean their judgment is more accurate. Each person experiences things differently therefore each person can learn something from someone else. Older voters can learn from the younger generations and vice versa in order to elect the best governing body for everyone.

What policies would make you most likely to vote for a party in a general election if you did have the vote? – Personally I’d like to see a modern take on socialism. I understand that full blown socialism won’t work and communism definitely won’t work but I believe that we would do so much better if everyone in society was allowed to thrive. The privatisation of healthcare and education results in social cleansing, allowing only rich people to continue thriving which is why I would vote for a party that supported state schools a lot more than the current government and managed the NHS with more compassion and sense. I would also like to see policies on building more council housing or the council claiming back properties, I think council housing was a brilliant idea and it was a mistake to sell them off. And of course, I’d like to see a policy vowing to allow 16 and 17 year olds the vote. If any under 18 year old wants to have their say as soon as possible in UK politics, or anyone over 18 believes 16 and 17 year olds should have the right to vote then please sign the petition.

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