11 February 2016
Last week was the National Voter Registration Drive! A lot of you out there may ask: why should I bother registering to vote? What’s the point when my vote won’t really make a difference as nobody cares? As a local councillor, I regularly hear these grievances on the doorsteps, at public meetings and on social media. My response is why wouldn’t you want to exercise a right that people in the past fought – or even in some cases – died for?
I am currently 19 and I remember that exciting moment when I could vote for the first time in 2014; in this case in the European Parliament elections for MEPs. That year also marked me being becoming Staffordshire’s youngest local councillor. I was co-opted onto my local parish council and now have the great honour of representing thousands of residents in my local community. During the general and local elections last May – after which I was successfully re-elected – I was highly disappointed at the lack of young adults at the polling stations. This is a phenomenon that we desperately need to change in the country; a turnout of 58% amongst 18-24 year olds is simply not good enough!
If you’re a young adult – or not far off reaching adulthood – and wondering why you should vote, I am now going to give you some reasons why you should.
Firstly, if you don’t, then it’s easy for politicians to ignore you as you have given them no mandate on which to represent your views. This may help to explain why pensioners have had a lot of their benefits protected. When compared to young people and everyone else, the grey voting turnout is huge.
Another reason is that it’s free to register to vote and it literally only takes a few minutes of your time to ensure you can exercise this right. That’s a great deal less time than women had to wait to finally become fully enfranchised in 1928!
Voting gives you the right to moan about any issue because you have been part of the process of electing the government and local councils of the day. So if you don’t think there is enough affordable housing being built for young adults and you have turned out to vote, then you have every right to complain about it.
Our vote – the young Generation-Y vote – is incredibly important. If you think about it, we will live longer with the consequences of the decisions our local and national elected representatives make. Many of us who raise our own families one day will also want to ensure a prosperous future for the next generation after us. If you want to ensure that the right people are in power to make this happen, then register to vote!
If you’re still not persuaded and are motivated by money, then this might convince you. Whoever is in power decides how much tax you pay. So, whether you are in favour or against the idea of a sugar tax, the type of government in office will determine whether or not this policy is implemented. After you have paid you’re hard-earned money to the taxman, politicians will also decide how this cash should be spent; whether it be on reducing the deficit, increasing the NHS budget, or big projects like HS2.
My overall message is that if you care about the community and world around you, then take a few minutes of your time and register to vote. You can then turn out and vote at the next elections – and more importantly, the upcoming European Union Referendum!
If young voters turnout out in their masses at polling stations and local public meetings, then it would shock the entire system. As a result, I believe that we would then be taken more seriously by those in power and the older generations. When someone my age was elected to local government, it shocked the whole community so there’s no reason why we all can’t do the same.
Written by Joe Porter, UK Youth Voice – West Midlands Representative