16 and 17 year olds will officially be granted the right to vote for Welsh Assembly (Senedd) elections today, after the Senedd and Elections (Wales) Act receives Royal Assent.
In November, it was announced that Welsh 16 and 17 Year Olds To Get The Vote For Welsh GE as Assembly members voted in favour of legislation which will see the biggest franchise extension in Wales since 1969, when the voting age was lowered from 21 to 18 in the Representation Of The People Act.
This legislation will officially be entered onto the statute book in Wales – the biggest change to the franchise in Wales since the reduction of the voting age from 21 to 18 in 1969. It follows campaigning from ERS Cymru and a coalition of youth and civil society campaigners.
A separate piece of legislation is currently progressing through the Senedd on extending the right to vote for 16- and 17-year olds for the next Welsh local government elections, due to take place in 2022.
The Electoral Reform Society have said this is a ‘momentous day in the campaign for a fairer franchise’, with Wales joining Scotland in introducing votes at 16/17. 16 and 17 year olds can also vote in Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man.
In November Elin Jones A.M, the Llywydd of the Assembly said “This was a vote to empower our young people to participate in the democratic process by extending the vote to 16 and 17 year olds – a move which, for some, is long overdue.
"This Bill, in my view, will create a more inclusive, diverse and effective Senedd, and will strengthen our democracy for the twenty first Century. One that will give our legislature a name which is a true reflection of its constitutional status and improves public understanding of the Senedd’s responsibilities. And one that will bring new energy to our democratic process.
"I am pleased that Wales has taken this important step to strengthen the foundations of our parliamentary democracy, a move that future generations will thank us for."
Jess Blair, Director of Electoral Reform Society Cymru said: “This is a real step forward for young people across Wales, and a real campaign victory. 16 and 17 year olds will now rightly have a say over critical issues that affect their future, such as health, education and the economy. As we’ve already seen in Scotland, this is a boost for our democracy as a whole – strengthening citizenship and boosting political engagement.
“Over the past few years we’ve spoken to hundreds of young people across Wales – the first set of young people that will be voting in 2021 – and they can’t wait to vote for the first time and truly have their voices heard.
“These changes send a decisive signal that 20 years after devolution Wales now has significant powers to do things differently and change the way elections work. England looks increasingly isolated on this, and it’s a constitutional injustice that 16/17 year olds in Wales will continue to be denied the vote. It’s time for the government to get behind this win-win policy.
“Unfortunately, a generation of young people in England and Northern Ireland will now be left behind, while Scotland and Wales make major strides in strengthening democracy. Let’s build a truly united franchise for the UK and extend it across the board.
“Instead of throwing up barriers to people voting through mandatory ID, Westminster should look at the efforts being made in Wales and Scotland to build a better, fairer democracy.”