A leading Welsh expert on voting has told MPs it is “vital” that young people cast their first votes as close to their 18th birthdays as possible so they start the habit of a lifetime. The warning from Rebecca Rumbul of Cardiff University’s Wales Governance Centre comes at a time of high concern about low turnouts in recent election. In the recent European elections, less than one in three eligible people took part. Around four of 10 of the electorate voted in the 2011 National Assembly election and only 36% participated in that year’s referendum on law-making powers. She is concerned there is a “growing group of young people who will probably never reach that point where they engage in voting”. One option to encourage voting, she suggested in her evidence, was to allow people to register to vote on election day.
She said: “Young people are more likely to wait until the last minute to vote, and may not even decide to do so until the day in question, and as a result, often find themselves unable to participate.”
Dr Rumbul told members of Westminster’s political and constitutional reform committee: “Studies show that voting is a habit developed at an early age, and it is therefore vital to provide young people with the tools they need to enable them to vote as soon as possible after their 18th birthday.”
She warned that if parents assign low value to political activity these attitudes may be not just replicated but by “amplified” by the next generation.