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‘Wales must send a clear message that it supports votes at 16’ – Kirsty Williams

2013 Mai 14 1:12 PM

In the debate this afternoon on 'Strengthening Local Government Democracy', the Welsh Liberal Democrats are calling for 16 and 17 years olds to be given the right to vote in elections to local councils.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats amendment is part of the party's ongoing campaign to ensure that 16 and 17 years olds are allowed to vote. The party is hoping their calls for this change in the law will be supported by other political parties in the Assembly, therefore sending a clear message that Wales supports votes at 16.

Kirsty Williams, Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, commented:

"The Welsh Liberal Democrats believe it is wrong that around 77,000 16 and 17 year olds in Wales are currently being denied the vote. The Assembly Commission is currently, quite rightly, trying to improve youth engagement, yet surely the best way to improve engagement is to open up the political system by giving young people the right to vote?

"Welsh Liberal Democrats want to build a fairer society, which is why we believe the time has come for this vital step in the renewal of Wales' democracy. Votes at 16 will strengthen democratic accountability by making sure a wider section of the community is represented on local councils. Community empowerment comes, in part, by making sure that as wide a range of people in the community areas possible are engaged in the process.

"The Scottish referendum is hugely important for a number of reasons, but allowing 16 year olds to vote is a seminal moment for Scottish, and possibly British, democracy. The Welsh Liberal Democrats want to keep this momentum moving forward. It is my hope that, following the referendum, people will see that 16 and 17 year olds can be mature enough to have a stake in our democracy.

"Sadly, turnout in local elections is disappointingly low. Evidence shows that voting becomes a habit, therefore is it really that surprising that so many people are disillusioned with our democracy when they are excluded from the system when they are 16? 16 year olds are considered old enough to leave school and pay taxes, therefore it is only right they are considered old enough to have a say in how we are governed."