Indigo Haynes, Budehaven student and Member of Youth Parliament for East and North Cornwall, met with Conservative MP for North Cornwall, Scott Mann on Friday, at his Launceston surgery.
Among questions asked on behalf of her constituents was the contentious issue of giving the vote to 16-year-olds, one of Youth Parliament’s key national campaigns this year.
The MP was generous with his time, answering questions from Indigo’s constituents, and those of her deputy, Lily Crocker, from Liskeard. But he was adamant that votes should not be given to those under 18.
With time short for a proper discussion on this issue, Indigo felt it best to raise her concerns at greater length in an open letter, which she hopes young people in the constituency will share and debate amongst themselves.
Indigo Haynes MYP is on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
Dear Scott Mann, MP,
I’m Indigo Haynes, Member of Youth Parliament for East and North Cornwall. You met me and my deputy, Lily Crocker, at your surgery on 28th June in Launceston. We asked you questions collected from our young constituents on topics such as mental health, knife crime and the environment. I’d like to thank you for taking the time to meet us, and answering all our questions in detail.
What concerned me, however, was your rejection of Youth Parliament’s campaign to give young people the vote from 16. I didn’t have an opportunity to voice my opinions fully, so I’m using this letter to explain why 16 and 17-year-olds should not be denied the democratic right to vote.
Firstly, you claim young people don’t understand capital markets, so won’t know enough about economics to vote. This is a gross misjudgement of young people.
At fifteen, I have a fair grasp of stock markets and how they shape our economy, despite not having learnt these things in school. The Business GCSE course provides an in-depth look at economics for those intending to specialise. And including democracy, politics and economics in the national curriculum would soon address that issue.
Secondly, most adults don’t know much about economics. A YouGov survey in 2015 found that more than 60% of respondents didn’t even know the definition of GDP (gross domestic product). Yet they are entitled to vote!
Your argument implies that only certain groups of people should be eligible to vote, as though there are entry requirements for democracy. Interestingly, that was the same argument used to prevent women and working-class people from being given the vote a hundred years ago – that they weren’t informed enough to choose between one candidate and another. Are we still living in the past?
You also said that, since most under-18s do not pay tax, they aren’t “contributing” to the economy and therefore shouldn’t be allowed to vote. Does this mean those in unemployment or on benefits should have their vote taken away?
Many teens work at the weekends and pay taxes. It was not until recently that this government denied us the right to work, making it mandatory for people to stay in education until the age of 18. The system is designed to infantilise under-18s. Yet 16-year-olds have the ability to give consent, get married, drink with an adult, get a passport, and join the army.
In the Scottish referendum, 16-to-18-year-olds were able to vote: their turnout was higher than that of 18-to-24-year-olds. I organise well-attended Youth Strike protests against climate change in Bude, increasing awareness of environmental issues. As a Member of Youth Parliament, I see how my constituents are politically engaged with the world, yet disenfranchised. Without the vote, we have no power. And don’t forget, 16-year-olds grow into 18-year-olds, and we remember.
Indigo Haynes MYP