Fair Vote

09 Mar 2018

Debate Mate is part of the Fair Vote campaign, helping to provide a platform for young people to discuss all sides of the debate to lower the voting age to 16.

Here are the main arguments on both sides of the debate:


  1. Democracy is supposed to ensure that everyone’s opinions are taken into account when government policies are made. It seems unfair in that case that people aged 16 and 17 are unable to have their voice heard in elections, especially when so many in this age bracket are becoming increasingly politically aware. Lowering the voting age to 16 would, therefore, ensure that a huge number of people are now able to be represented in politics, and get a truly fair vote.
  2. At the age of 16, you are able to enlist in the military and fight for your country. Surely you should then be able to have some kind of say in which wars your state enters into. If a 16-year-old is considered mature enough to join the armed forces then they should be considered similarly mature enough to make other major decisions.
  3. One of the main issues with most democracies is voter apathy and low turnout at elections. By introducing voting at a younger age, this gives people more time to get into voting and would increase the number of people going out to vote. This would result in election results which are far more representative of what people want.


  1. 18 may seem like an arbitrary number but the line for the minimum voting age has to be drawn somewhere. Making teenagers wait until the age of 18 is consistent with all kinds of existing laws which consider that to be the age of adult responsibility. If the voting age is lowered to 16 then that sets a precedent for also reducing the minimum age requirements for gambling, drinking alcohol and all sorts of other dangerous behaviours.
  2. Two years is not a long time but makes an enormous difference when comparing the maturity of 16-year-olds and 18-year-olds. In most cases those extra few years of life experience results in significantly increased political awareness and a much-improved ability to form properly informed opinions on major issues.
  3. Given that 16 years olds are generally less aware of political issues than adults, reducing the voting age is likely to result in many votes being cast without consideration of the potential consequences. Not only could these be wasted votes, but impressionable younger voters could be swayed to vote for more extreme political parties which would likely be damaging to the democratic system.

For guidelines on how to run this debate in your school or college, check out the Fair Vote toolkit, put together by The Association of Colleges, the NUS and Debate Mate.

For more information on Debate Mate Teacher & Student Training, as well as partnerships, click here.

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