Equality now: give tweens the vote


16 year olds voting zeichner

TOM HARWOOD argues that if Cambridge MP Daniel Zeichner wants votes for 16 year olds, he might as well give them to 12 year olds.

The new MP for Cambridge, Daniel Zeichner, describes himself as a “longstanding campaigner for votes at 16,” and has recently called for the franchise to be extended to 16 and 17 year olds for the upcoming EU referendum.

Mr Zeichner’s apparent contempt for those aged 15, 14, 13 and 12 is shameful.

So hard to concentrate when my political franchise is violated

It’s ludicrous to exclude hundreds of thousands of citizens from voting with as arbitrary a cut off age as 16.

When you think about it, statistically, 12 year olds will have to live with the consequences of political decision making for longer than 16 year olds.

By not granting the vote at 12 we are exercising unseemly, undemocratic, unforgivable tyrannous rule over their futures.

Some reactionary sceptics who reject the idea of granting #VotesFor12YearOlds may complain that 12 year olds are prohibited from driving, buying alcohol, cigarettes, fireworks, knives, watching adult films, gambling, getting married without permission, getting tattoos, standing for election, serving on a jury, organ donation, fighting for their country and much, much more.

Yet why then do so many “votes at 16” campaigners reject the notion of #VotesFor12YearOlds? After all, 16 year olds are also expressly and legally prohibited from all of the above.

No response

Is it simply that 12 year olds are too young, that their brains have not formed to a sufficient degree? Whilst this may be true, an authoritative study entitled “Anatomical Changes in the Emerging Adult Brain” has suggested most human brains do not reach “maturity” until after the age of 21. By the “immaturity argument” logic, surely we should  also be denying the vote to 18 year olds, a privilege they have enjoyed in this country since 1969.

The rights and privileges granted to 12 year olds are not that distinct from those of 16 year olds. Cranial development is almost equally immature. In fact, the age of leaving compulsory education has been raised to 18 meaning there is no clear distinction between 12 and 16 year olds in regard to their capacity to engage in full time work.

Some may be critical, stating 12 year olds can be annoying with their comically oversized rucksacks and depressingly buoyant enthusiasm. But similar charges can be levelled at every age.

From awkward 16 year olds with half broken voices and exaggerated problems, to sanctimonious 18 year olds writing sarcastic articles, to smug 21 year olds telling the rest of us how easy we have it.

To deny a group of people the vote simply due to the relative size of their rucksacks is discrimination in the highest order.

The oppressed mass of rucksack wearers.  Probably on the way to a demonstration.

In short, it’s clear that 12 year olds are not adults, yet it’s equally clear that 16 year olds aren’t either. Why should campaigners for votes at 16 choose such an arbitrary and high age?

But maybe – just maybe – Mr Zeichner isn’t doing this on the basis of a spasm in his moral compass. Could it be that he backs this absurd idea for the same reason all major left of centre parties support it?

Is it a coincidence that the young are more likely to vote for left wing parties?

Labour won Cambridge by just 599 votes, clearly as a result of a significant student swing.

It’s not unreasonable to assume Mr Zeichner has been thinking about what kind of franchise will swing the odds in his favour.

But maybe this is unfair on him. I challenge him to test the consistency of his moral fibre, rise to the occasion and join the campaign for #VotesFor12YearOlds.