House of Commons Library

Voting age

Published Tuesday, November 24, 2015

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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At Report Stage of the European Union Referendum Bill 2015-16 in the House of Lords on 18 November 2015, an amendment to extend the franchise for the EU referendum to 16 and 17 year olds was agreed after a division, Contents 293; Not-Contents 211.

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 the Prime Minister stated in June 2015 that the House of Commons should vote on the issue.

The Government has announced that the National Assembly for Wales will be given the power to lower the voting age to 16 for Assembly elections. The draft Wales Bill was published on 20 October 2015 and devolves all powers in relation to Welsh Assembly elections.

Commons Briefing papers SN01747

Author: Isobel White

Topics: Elections, Electoral franchise

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