This week in Wales, sixteen and seventeen year olds will have a very unique opportunity. We will get the chance to vote in Senedd Elections to decide the makeup of the parliament for the next five years.
2021 will be the sixth election since the establishment of the Senedd in 1999, and the first election since the General Election in 2019 and the onset of the pandemic a few months later.
By expanding the vote to 16- and 17-year-olds, it marks the biggest extension of the franchise in Wales since 1969 and makes people like me amongst the few in the world who have this democratic right at such a young age.
This year’s elections may not have the glamour or drama of a general election, but they are no less important.
Since the onset of the pandemic, for understandable reasons all forms of voting have been suspended. As such, many of us will not only get our first opportunity to vote but also have the opportunity to deliver our verdict on how we’ve been governed during this turbulent period at a regional and national level.
The last twelve months have showed us the power of both local governments and regional assemblies and the impact they can have on our lives. The pandemic has dispelled any myths that the Welsh and Scottish parliaments are unimportant and showed us just how vital it is that young people have their say.
The next five years of the next Senedd will be one of the most important periods in our modern history – with the recovery from Coronavirus, constitutional questions and the future direction of our country all in play.
With the additional member voting system, we can also have our say on both local representatives and the political parties in Wales as a whole.
Whatever issues may matter to you, if you’re not counted then you don’t count. The fact is that young people are significantly less likely to vote than our older cohorts, meaning that it is easier for us to be ignored by political parties without causing any electoral damage to them.
Your vote in the Senedd election is the easiest and most powerful way you can have your voice heard, and shape Wales for the future. It’s your way of getting those in power or seeking power to listen to your concerns and work to earn your vote.
I’m 16 years old. I’ll be voting for the first time on Thursday, and I’d encourage you to vote too.