Richard Dawkins, the evolutionary biologist better known for his dogmatic atheism, has revealed his desire to see a “test” for 16-year-olds should they wish to vote in a general election. The idea came during an interview with The Sun last month in which Professor Dawkins put forth a test that would assess how “ready” people are to vote.
Elsewhere in the UK, 16 and 17 year-olds have been able to vote in elections for a number of years.
In Scotland, the teens were able to vote in the first Scottish independence referendum in 2014.
It was so successful that Holyrood extended their voting rights to the Scottish parliament elections.
Many argued that if 16 and 17-year-olds had been given the vote in time for the Brexit vote, the result might have been different.
The Brexit demographics were almost polar opposites, with the majority of young people voting Remain, while more than half over the age of 45 voted Leave.
Data analysed by political scientists Michael Bruter and Dr Sarah Harrison suggests that if 16 and 17-year-olds were given the vote, the result would have been much closer, minimising the Leave victory.
There were exceptions to the age averages – Prof Dawkins, who was 76 at the time, voted Remain and has been a vocal critic of Brexit and its management ever since.
He has gone as far as to label David Cameron “irresponsible” for ever calling the election.
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On the topic of Brexit and voting reasons, Prof Dawkins divulged a voting testing system he thought would work.
He said: “We do for obvious practical reasons impose an age threshold, in some countries it’s 21, in most countries it’s 18, in some countries it’s 16.
“From time to time there’s pressure to reduce the voting age to 16.
“I think it was reduced in Scotland for the Scottish referendum.
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“You can argue about exactly where to place the age threshold.
“I think what I would like to see would be something like this: Once you’re 18, then you get the vote, and that’s it.
“But when you’re 16 I could imagine having a sort of driving test, similar to the test which would-be immigrants to this country have to take, it’s quite a stiff test. I’ve had a look at it myself.
“It’s quite interesting, questions about British life and things.
“But you could have questions about British democracy and about the issues of the day, economics, and politics, and history and things.
“And, if a 16-year-old passes that test then they get the vote, if they don’t they have to wait until they’re 18.
“I think that might be rather a good way of weaning young people into their age a level of political responsibility.
“They could wait until they’re 18 and just vote anyway or they could if they’re interested, they could take a sort of driving test.
“I’d rather like to see that, I think it could be a good way of allowing those young people who really do know a lot and have responsibility to be allowed to vote; that they should be allowed to vote.
“Isn’t that a rather good way of doing it?”
His comments chime with the Electoral Reform Society (ERS) who have consistently campaigned to lower the voting age across the UK.
When contacted by Express.co.uk, the ERS said: “Thankfully we’ve already had a ‘test’ for extending the franchise.
“Sixteen and 17-year-olds have been able to vote in Scotland for years, and it’s been a resounding success, with former critics now firmly on board.
“It’s time the outdated Westminster machine followed suit.
“This isn’t just about having a say: extending the vote can foster a sense of civic duty, community, and voting habits that last a lifetime.”
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