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LAST MODIFIED ON: 13/10/2020
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Young people as voters
The voting age for European Parliament, UK Parliament, National Assembly and local elections in Wales is currently 18. This is also the case for referendums. To be eligible to vote, people must register. They may do this at age 16 or over and registration can be done online orby post. There are no special provisions in the electoral rules for young people or specific groups of young people.
The Wales Act 2017 gives the National Assembly for Wales the power to lower the voting age for Assembly and local elections. A consultation on democracy, elections and voting closed on 10 October 2017 and included the issue of lowering the voting age. The Senedd and Elections (Wales) Bill includes provisions to lower the voting age for Assembly elections to 16, and will only have effect from the Senedd general election scheduled for May 2021.
Turnout in recent elections
European Parliament election Overall turnout for Wales at the 2019 European Parliamentary election was 37.1 per cent. This is higher than in 2015 when it was 32.1 per cent. No breakdown is available by age.
Welsh Assembly election According to a report from the Electoral Commission, overall turnout in the 2016 Welsh Assembly election was 46.1 per cent in the constituency election and 46.0 per cent in the regional election. No age breakdown is available. The next Welsh Assembly election will be held on May 6th 2021.
EU membership referendum According to the Electoral Commission, overall turnout in Wales in the referendum held on 23 June 2016 on membership of the European Union was 71.7 per cent, compared to 72.2 per cent for the UK overall. Based on post-election sampling it has been reported that the turnout for 18-24-year-olds was 64 per cent.
Local government election Research published by the Electoral Commission on the 2017 local elections in Wales, overall turnout in contested seats was 42 per cent. No age breakdown is available. Local government elections that were expected to take place in May 2021 will now take place in May 2022 so as not to clash with National Assembly elections.
UK general election In the 2017 UK general election, according to research conducted by Ipsos MORI, an estimated 71 per cent of those aged 65+ turned out to vote, whilst for those aged under 25 years turnout was 54 per cent, with overall turnout for the UK at 63 per cent. The overall turnout in Wales was 68.6 per cent.
Data published by YouGov, which based their findings on a survey of over 40,000 adults, found that as in the 2017 election, age continued to be the biggest dividing line in the 2019 election. The data indicates that little has changed on this front over the past two years, with Labour still winning a majority of younger voters and the Conservatives remaining more popular among older Britons.
Young people as political representatives
There is no legislation governing young people as members of political parties. The age at which they can join, other eligibility criteria and the benefits of membership are matters for the parties’ own rules. Most of the major political parties have youth wings and/or special membership categories for young people. All members of Plaid Cymru who are 30 or under have membership of the party’s youth movement, Plaid Ifanc Youth.
Candidates for European and UK Parliamentary elections, National Assembly (for both constituency and regional candidates) and local elections must be 18 years old or over. There are no quotas for young people.
Of the Members elected to Parliament in 2019, 49% of MPs elected were aged over 50. Members aged 18-29 and those over 70 each represented 3% of the total.
There is no information available on the age composition of the National Assembly for Wales.
There are no functions reserved for young people in either the UK Parliament or the National Assembly for Wales.
A 2019 report of the National Assembly for Wales Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee Expert Panel on Diversity in Local Government, reiterated previous research which established that the average age of Welsh councillors was 60 years old. The report makes specific recommendations relevant to increasing youth participation in democracy:
- provisions to roll out an adequate level of political education across schools in Wales. Young people from the ages of 14 and 15 should receive this education, particularly should proposals to extend voting rights to 16 and 17 year olds be implemented. This programme of political awareness should be accompanied by clear lesson plans to empower teachers to deliver the lessons
- national mock election for young people which should be held at the same time as Assembly elections