House of Commons Library

Voting age

Published Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Under current legislation, a person must be 18 or over to vote. This Note gives details of calls for a change in the law to reduce the voting age to 16.

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Under current legislation, a person must be 18 or over to vote in all elections in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The franchise for the referendum on independence for Scotland in 2014 was extended to include 16 and 17 year olds. The law has subsequently been changed in Scotland to lower the voting age to 16 for elections to the Scottish Parliament and local government elections in Scotland although the voting age for UK Parliamentary elections remains at 18, as in the rest of the UK.

This Note gives details of the attempts to change the law to lower the voting age over the last decade. The Labour Party, the SNP, the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party all support voting at 16. The Conservative Party has not been in favour but recently the leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Ruth Davidson, said that she supported lowering the voting age.

In Wales, the National Assembly is to be given the power to lower the voting age for its elections. The Wales Bill 2016-17, currently before Parliament, makes provision for this.

Commons Briefing papers SN01747

Author: Isobel White

Topics: Elections, Electoral franchise

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