If you’re under 18, no doubt you’ve been looking forward to a few things in the next couple of years.
You can try your luck on the lottery, leave compulsory education, and get married with your parents’ permission at 16. You can drive cars starting from age 17. You can drink alcohol, enter pubs and clubs, and get married without your parents’ permission at 18.
But starting from 2021 in Wales, you only have to be 16 to vote!
For many people, 16 is when their life changes a lot. It’s when you really become a citizen of the world, start thinking about what you want to do with your life, what views and beliefs you want to hold, who you want to marry, how you want to get around, where you’re going to live and many other questions.
Until now, you’ve been forced to come up with the answers to these questions alone without any way of acting upon them in the political sphere. But now that 16 and 17 year olds are allowed to vote in Welsh Assembly and local council elections, (or at least WILL be allowed from 2021) a whole new generation of people have suddenly been enfranchised.
The Institute for Welsh Affairs, a Welsh think-tank, thinks that 16 and 17 year olds are more likely to vote in their first election after coming of age as they are at home, with parents who likely vote, rather than 18 year olds who are often away at university or busy starting a career. In Scotland, where the voting age is already 16, a higher proportion of 16 and 17 year olds voted than the entire 18-34 demographic.
70,000 extra young people in Wales will now be able to vote. Sadly, if you’re 16 right now, you won’t get much benefit because, as I said, the law doesn’t arrive until 2021.