Vote at 16
Let’s make our democracies stronger! It’s time to bridge the gap between young generations and our elected politicians.
Currently, young people have very little say over important decisions, laws and policies that affect their lives.
Despite being active members of society, who are starting their working life, getting their driver's licence and paying taxes, young people under the age of 18 are being excluded from the ballot box.
Young people’s opinions count. Let’s make voting at 16 a reality for all young Europeans!
Young people are missing from public life, they need to be seen and be heard
Despite being the generation that will disproportionately inherit the consequences of the choices we make today, young people continue to be routinely excluded from these decision-making spaces.
As part of The Body Shop's global campaign, Be Seen Be Heard, together with the Office of the United Nations Secretary-General's Envoy on Youth, the European Youth Forum is partnering to spread the word on vote at 16 across Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg.
The campaign's key objective is to promote youth participation in public life. The new report 'Understanding Young People's Political Participation', outlines how and why young people engage in political decision making, and the challenges that sometimes prevent them from doing so.
We call for...
Lowering the voting age to 16 for local, national and European elections
A look at the evidence
There are a lot of myths, confusion and controversy around lowering the voting age - but there doesn’t need to be!
Let’s take a look at some of the key reasons why 16 and 17 year olds must be given the right to vote.
Young people care
From taking part in street protests to protect the climate, to signing petitions or taking online action, young people are politically engaged!
Even without having the right to vote, 16-year-olds are advocating for the issues they care about and bringing positive change.
More than ever before, they are informed, knowledgeable and mature enough to make important decisions, as they already do in their daily lives.
Did you know?
Two-thirds of young people (aged 16-30) who were eligible to vote, voted in the last European election.
Both the Scottish referendum (2015) and the Norwegian trial (2011) show that the voter turnout among 16- and 17-year-olds was actually higher than the turnout among 18- to 24-year-olds
Young people have a right to be heard
Voting is a fundamental democratic right. Allowing citizens to take part in elections is at the core of our democracies.
By disenfranchising under-18s, political leaders are sending a message that the opinions of young people are not of value in our democracies. That their experiences are not as legitimate as those of older people.
As non-voters, young people are also less likely to be taken seriously by their elected representatives. 16 and 17 year olds have no way to hold decision-makers to account for their actions and as such, are at risk of being ignored by those in power.
This problem of representation is worsened due to the fact young people are also drastically underrepresented.
Did you know?
Only 5% of parliamentarians in Europe are below 30 years old
Worldwide, only 2.8% of parliamentarians are under thirty
Young people make our democracies richer
Our democracies are stronger when we include young people. Young people have unique perspectives and experiences that are valuable and integral to our societies.
Rather than putting up barriers to political participation, our democracies should be opening up to allow young people to have a meaningful say on the decisions that affect them.
Furthermore, studies have shown that citizens who get into the habit of voting at a young age, are more likely to continue to vote later in life. Granting 16 year-olds the right to vote is a way of encouraging life-long active participation.
Why is 16 a good age to start voting?
- While young people aged 18-21 often face more barriers to voting, such as no longer living in their parents house, changing address, etc. 16 year olds are likely to have more stability. They are also likely to still be in school, where they have access to support on how to register as well as other resources, such as citizenship education.
Lowering the voting age works!
Voting at 16 is already a reality in many European countries and regions. Including 16 and 17 year olds in elections have been shown to have positive results, in some cases with a higher turnout rate than 18-21 year olds.
Austria (all elections); Malta (all elections); Estonia (local elections); Scotland (Scottish elections); Wales (Welsh elections); Germany (local elections in some Länder). In Greece, people can vote at age 17.
More and more countries are examining the benefits and impact of lowering the voting age.
Belgium has already pledged to implement voting at 16 in European elections and Germany is also moving to lower the national voting age, with some German states already including 16 year olds on a local and regional level. The proposal is also under debate in Ireland, where a Citizens’ Assembly in 2018 voted 80 percent in favour of vote at 16.
Young people have the capacity to make informed decisions and assume responsibility for their choices. More countries should now choose to meaningfully include the voices of young people, enabling them to contribute to the decisions that shape their lives in a democratic society.
Kickstart your activism!
In this handbook you will find the keys to engage in meaningful advocacy action: core concepts you need to master, practical frameworks you can follow to plan your actions, do's and don'ts to avoid the most common mistakes, and inspiring examples from the NGO sector.
Related news and publications
European Youth Forum priorities: Defence of Democracy package
The Defence of Democracy package serves as an opportunity to safeguard democracy and overall civic space in the EU. However, the package’s potential ‘foreign interference’ directive has raised concerns among civil society across the European continent. The European Youth Forum has put forward the following priorities in response to the process.
Safeguarding Civic Space for Young People in Europe
Launch of the European Charter for Youth and Democracy
The European Committee of the Regions and the European Youth Forum join forces to bring young people closer to the EU!