Alun Michael, who served as a Labour Party MP for Cardiff South & Penarth in Wales (U.K.) and who currently is Police & Crime Commissioner for the South Wales Police Area, has repeatedly spoken out in favor of lowering the voting age to 14 as a way to increase voter turnout and to encourage young people to engage with politics. He hopes that by starting them out at this age, young people will get into the habit of voting and become life long voters.
In various publications, Alun Michael has said the following statements in support of lowering the voting age, not to 16 as the Labour Party Platform calls for, but to 14:
14 (is) an age which I find young people far better informed and sensibly engaged than was the case in the past. Young people are under-represented and I believe people as young as 14 should be able to vote in general elections. Lowering the voting age by 4 years would increase voter turnout as well as encourage youngsters to engage with politics. They will then know how to vote if and when they come to engage with political issues later in life.
My experience, going into schools is that young people are very acute at picking up on social issues, environmental issues, and all the things that are important. I find that young people are more capable of making intelligent decisions than many other people and as the decisions taken by MPs affect their world just as much, it makes sense to include them.
Currently, there is only a 50/50 chance of first-time voters actually using their vote. Something surely needs to be done. We have the opportunity to engage young people at exactly the time when they are learning how the world works, and not just those who go to college. Once they know how to vote and are registered, they are much more likely to vote again in future elections. Hopefully, they will get into the habit of voting and become life-long voters.
Politicians would have a new impetus to engage with young people at election time if votes were at stake. I am absolutely sure the knowledge that young people would have the chance to vote would affect the way parties thought about issues. My guess is that candidates will change how they campaign if they have to ask for the support of people who will have to live with the effects of our legislation for the longest.
Liam Preston, chairman of the British Youth Council, commented:
I am delighted Alun Michael recognizes young people are both better-informed and more engaged than they were in the past. Locking young people out of the political system is patronising: it relies on out-dated views about young people's capacities.
Alun Michael served 16 years as a Youth & Community activist in his early career.