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Boris Johnson rejects plan for teenagers and EU nationals to vote in December election

Boris Johnson rejects plan for teenagers and EU nationals to vote in December election
3 min read

Boris Johnson has slapped down plans to allow teenagers and EU nationals to vote in the planned 12 December election as “administratively impossible”.

The Prime Minister’s spokesman also said he would not allow the date to be changed to Monday, 9 December, saying it would be more difficult and costly to administer.

He suggested this would not give enough time to pass the Early Election Bill triggering the snap poll to pass through Parliament, nor for the Northern Irish Budget legislation to become law.

The spokesman suggested the bill would be destroyed if it was amended in this way, hinting Mr Johnson may pull it rather than let it go through the Commons.

It comes after Jeremy Corbyn said Labour would back the PM’s push for a snap election after the EU granted a three-month extension to Brexit.

His shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon suggested his party could try and amend the legislation though, so 16 and 17-year-olds and EU nationals are eligible to vote in the poll.

The Lib Dems and the SNP have signalled they would support such a move too.

But speaking at a briefing in Westminster, the PM’s spokesman said the Electoral Commission warns against changing the franchise less than six months before an election.

He said: “The Government’s position has not changed, we’ve no plans to lower the national voting age.

“18 is widely recognised as the age people become an adult. Below the age of 18 you are treated as a minor in both the foster care system and the criminal justice system.

“Full citizenship rights including voting should be gained at adulthood.”

The spokesman added: “I think it’s also important for me to point out that votes at 16 are administratively impossible to deliver in the time available.

“There will be less than three weeks before voter registration deadline to register 16 and 17-year-olds.”

On EU citizens, he said: “Changing the election franchise days before an election could cause administrative chaos.

“There would be between 2.4 million to three million people added to the electoral roll at the last minute, with no idea on the cost or logistical burden this could cause.

“This may in turn lead to delays with polling cards, postal votes and at polling stations that could undermine everyone’s ability to vote in the election.”

He said it was not as easy as simply moving EU nationals already registered for local elections over to a general election.

Adding: “It would also mean EU nationals in the UK enjoy wider voting rights than UK nationals in any other country other than Ireland.

“Citizenship requirements are the norm in national elections in democracies, including in the United Kingdom.”

On plans to change the date to 9 December the spokesman said that would require Parliament to dissolve on Thursday night, adding that “it would be very difficult for the election bill to get Royal Assent by the point”.

And he said Parliament needs time to pass the Northern Ireland Budget Bill, which is required as Stormont is still not sitting.

The spokesman added: “In the modern era we would have never held an election on a Monday.

“Polling day being immediately after the weekend would create challenges for returning officers who would need to prepare polling stations over the weekend when staff availability is lower.

“It would also significantly increase the cost of delivering the election.”

But he kept alive the possibility of another date that week, possibly Tuesday 10 December or Wednesday 11 December, as was revealed to PoliticsHome.

He said: “The Government is prepared to look at amendments for dates which are logistically possible.”

The bill is being introduced by the PM on Tuesday afternoon and has been allotted six hours to pass through all stages in the Commons before heading to the Lords for scrutiny on Wednesday.

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