Penarth Times- School Visits and Votes at 16

One of my favourite parts of being an Assembly Member is getting to visit schools across my constituency. Since 2016 I have visited 50 schools, meeting with school councils and attending school assemblies. I have also had the pleasure of welcoming schools to the Assembly. This month, pupils and staff from St Cyres, Llandough Primary and St Joseph’s visited the Senedd. I have always believed that it is important that the Assembly is accessible to everyone, including schools so that they are able to experience our political system and become engaged in politics at an early age. This is why my office has invited every school in the constituency to visit and have a tour of the Senedd.

As many of you may know the Welsh Government has announced plans to lower the voting age to allow 16 and 17 year olds to vote in Assembly and Council elections. I strongly believe that lowering the voting age would help engage our young people in the decisions that affect their lives. At 16, young people can leave school, pay taxes, get married and join the armed forces. There has been speculation as to the likely effects of this proposal on turnout. However the experience of other countries suggests that 16 and 17 year olds may actually be more likely to vote than 18 year olds, as more of them live with their parents and attend school. When the voting age was reduced to 16 in Austria, results show that turnout of 16 and 17 year olds is in fact higher than turnout of older first time voters, and it is nearly as high as overall turnout. Lowering the voting age should also help set a pattern for greater participation in elections later in life.

It was fantastic to see the first sitting of the Welsh Youth Parliament at the beginning of the year. All 11 to 18 year olds in Wales were eligible to vote, with around 13,000 registering to choose from a group of 480 candidates. Members of the Youth parliament will have the opportunity to have their say on issues that matter to them, and to ensure that politicians and other decision makers listen to their voices. I want to congratulate Rhian Shillabeer, the youth parliament member representing Cardiff South and Penarth, on her election. I look forward to working with Rhian on her priorities including the environment, education and improving living standards. The youth parliament is an important step in ensuring future youth participation in welsh politics and I hope it goes from strength to strength.

I would welcome your views on the Votes at 16 campaign and how we can increase political engagement amongst our young people, please get in touch by writing to the National Assembly for Wales, Cardiff Bay, CF99 1NA or by email at [email protected].