Proposals to reduce the voting age to 16 were opposed by the majority of county councillors last week.
Chris Oxlade (Lab, Bewbush and Ifield West) argued that 16 and 17-year-olds should have a ‘democratic say in their future’ and said the authority should support proposals to extend the franchise in all elections at Friday’s West Sussex County Council meeting.
He felt that most young people were politically aware and engaged, while many of the ‘drastic’ cuts in recent years had fallen on services used by that age group.
Sue Mullins (Lab, Gossops Green and Ifield East) pointed out that 16 and 17-year-olds were allowed to vote in last year’s referendum on Scottish independence, and raised the fact that 23,000 had voted in the last West Sussex Youth Parliament elections.
Mrs Mullins added: “The interest, desire and demand is there for all to see.”
Peter Lamb (Lab, Northgate and Three Bridges) described the current voting age as an ‘arbitrary line’, while Michael Jones (Lab, Southgate and Crawley Central) thought that ‘getting people to vote early was habit forming’ when they were still living at home with their parents.
But the majority of councillors voted against Mr Oxlade’s motion.
Sandra James (UKIP, Bourne) said that ‘children should be children’, and as many were failing to gain five GCSEs between A* and C she thought it was difficult in those years to introduce political awareness to allow young people to sensibly engage in the voting system.
Debbie Kennard (Con, Shoreham) said that although there were some young people with adult responsibilities she wanted them to still be children. She added: “What they really need is knowledge, information, and boundaries as well to do things in the proper time.”
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