THE Welsh Youth Parliament member for the Vale of Clwyd has described the vote being granted to 16- and 17-years-olds in Wales as a “momentous moment”

The Senedd and Elections Bill received Royal Assent on Wednesday, January 15 to give 70,000 teenagers the vote in Welsh Assembly elections.

A total of 41 assembly members voted for the bill, just exceeding the two-thirds majority of 40 votes needed.

Jonathon Dawes, 17, who stands on the Welsh Youth Parliament, the youth model legislature set up in 2018 to engage young people in politics, said the lower voting age “will inspire 16- and 17 year olds across Wales to get more politically active and involved in their communities”.

“This extension of the franchise will ultimately make Wales more democratic and give young people more of a voice on the national scale in the Welsh Assembly,” he said. “In the current political climate, it is essential that young peoples’ voices are heard on the key issues that matter to them.

“Lowering the voting age will give these young people a platform and help give them further representation on the national stage with AMs and Welsh Government ministers.”

The next vote is the Welsh Assembly elections in May 2021, which could be a close-fought election following Conservative gains in Wales in the 2019 General Election.

Dr Paul Evans, headteacher of Denbigh High School, said it is “only appropriate” that 16- and 17-years-olds get to vote.

“Young people are the future of this country,” he said. “When decisions are being made in Welsh Government about issues that will affect their lives, it seems only appropriate to me that they should have a say.

“We need to engage our young people in the decision-making process and extending the vote to sixteen-year-olds would be a very positive step forward.”

Ann Jones, AM for the Vale of Clwyd, a “long-term supporter” of votes at 16, said she believes the Senedd and Elections Bill will “strengthen the foundations of democracy”.

“The Bill will create a more inclusive, diverse and effective Senedd, will strengthen our democracy for the 21st century, and will bring new energy to our democratic process,” she said.

“As an assembly member I have the privilege of visiting schools and engaging with 16-and 17-year olds. 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.”