Oldham's MP Jim Mcmahon campaigns for younger voters in elections

Reporter: Jess Reeves
Date published: 03 April 2019

Jim McMahon MP has again called for the expansion of the electoral franchise with the inclusion of 16 and 17-year olds being allowed to vote in local and national elections.

There is some success as 16 and 17-year olds can vote in Scotland and did so in the 2014 Independence Referendum.  Also, the franchise for local and assembly elections in Wales is expanding to include 16 and 17-year olds. 

There is now an argument to be made that this issue is becoming one that has implications for the Union itself, with Scottish and Welsh young people being given the vote, whereas in England the Government deny them this right. 

The issue of expanding the franchise to include 16 and 17-year olds is an issue that has been a constant part of Jim McMahon’s time in Parliament and an issue he has campaigned on since he was elected and then selected for a Private Members Bill.  

Jim McMahon has made it one of his goals in Parliament to finally introduce this expansion by attempting to introduce it through his Private Members Bill - Young People’s Enfranchisement and Education Bill 2017-19. 

Mr McMahon’s Bill seeks to both lower the voting age and to introduce an element of political and electoral education within the national curriculum, to ensure young people are just as prepared to make political decisions as those of ages 18 and over. 

The support for expanding the franchise is growing among the public, with a recent poll done by the House of Commons showing over half of those that voted believed the franchise should be extended. 

This will be welcome news for Jim McMahon and the range of cross party Members of Parliament that have come out in favour of lowering the voting age, such as Nicky Morgan MP, former Secretary of State for Education.

Mr McMahon managed to secure a Westminster Hall debate on the issue this week and debated with parties on all sides of the House with differing views on the issue. 

During the debate, Mr McMahon stated that “I last brought forward this topic in 2017, during my own Private Members Bill. 

A Bill that not only sought to modernise the age at which electors can vote, but to also reform political education in schools. After many years of debate, I believe the time has now come for 16 and 17 years to have the right to vote. “

In addition, Jim points to the young people of Oldham for the inspiration for the campaign and also praised their “continued vigour and spirit” in continuing to fight for the right to vote. 

Jim also said “I feel a great deal of pressure today. To deliver for the young people of Oldham, who want their voices to be heard.” We have set the bar much, much higher for 16-year olds in terms of being mature and informed enough to vote on national issues. There is no universal test that allows our voters to take part, they simply do. 

Votes at 16 isn’t about left or right politics, it is about a battle for our Democracy.”

Jim continued, stating that “The case for Votes at 16 has never been stronger, with record turnouts in Scotland and the expansion of the franchise in Wales for local elections. The time to expand the franchise is now. “

Jim concluded the debate telling those in the room that he still wishes to test the will of the House on this matter. “The time wasting and filibustering of this Bill are not a sign of serious concerns about the maturity of 16 and 17-year olds, but that they are due to the fact the Government do not believe they will vote conservative. That’s the cruelty of it” Jim concluded. 

With cross party support seemingly on the rise alongside increased public support, the case for Votes at 16 seems to be increasingly positive and the MP is calling for electoral reform sooner rather than later with many in the public joining him.

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