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PRESSURE GROWS FOR VOTES AT 16 - AND FOR MONITORING OF ELECTION MATERIAL

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By LGCnet political correspondent Robert Hedley ...
By LGCnet political correspondent Robert Hedley

The Electoral Commission was aware there was strong support in some quarters for a reduction in the voting age, Peter Viggers, representing the Speaker's Committee on the commission, told MPs.

He said the Votes at 16 campaign had made representations to the commission. It was also aware of support for moves to reduce the minimum voting age from several parliamentarians, political parties and other bodies.

Vernon Coaker, Labour MP for Gedling, urged that the Electoral Commission should listen to the voices of young people on the issue. 'Those young people are asking why they can pay tax, get married and join the armed forces at 16, if they cannot vote', he added.

Mr Viggers said the purpose of the fundamental review being carried out by the commission was to gauge how wide the support was for a change in the voting age.

Its timetable was to consult over the summer and early autumn this year, with publication of a final report and recommendations in early 2004.

'It is, perhaps, worth reporting, if one is seeking to improve the turnout at general elections, that the overall turnout in the 2001 general election was 59%, but the estimated turnout among 18 to 24-year-olds was 39%', commented Mr Viggers.

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Simon Hughes asked what monitoring of electoral literature was carried out by the commission.

Mr Viggers said the commission did not have a specific role in monitoring, although it kept an overview of how the law operated in that area.

Mr Hughes said all constituencies and opinion polls showed that the one thing electors wanted from all parties was more information that was 'decent, honest and truthful'. He suggested it would be helpful for the credibility of politics if the Electoral Commission considered the issue and came forward with recommendations that everyone could follow.

Mr Viggers replied that if there was a breach of electoral law, it was a matter for the police. It was not a ma tter in which the commission became directly involved.

Hansard 7 Apr Column 16; 20

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