GROWING THE ELECTORATE – WHY ARE YOUNG PEOPLE NOT VOTING?

Zoe Chadwick

This weekend, candidates in the upcoming European and local elections pounded the pavements and knocked on doors, asking people to vote for them in elections in May. This activity will increase in the run up to these elections. But, will all this effort be worth it?

The lack of voter engagement has been an increasingly noticeable problem in recent years. Not only are registered voters failing to vote, but an increasing number of young people are not even registering to vote.

The universal right to vote in the UK is a right which our predecessors campaigned tirelessly for, and it gives us the chance to make a difference to the political landscape of the UK (both nationally and locally) and the European Parliament.

Nonetheless, turnout in UK General Elections fell from 83.9% in 1950 to 59.4% in 2001, climbing slightly to 65.1% in 2010. The turnout in local and European elections is even lower, rarely passing 40%. Even though the UK is an advanced democracy, it seems to be suffering from a democratic deficit, and a rather apathetic population.

Bite the Ballot is an unpartisan not for profit organisation which is working hard to encourage young people to register to vote and make their voice count in politics. On 5th February, Bite the Ballot held a National Voter Registration Day (NVRD) to encourage young people, who make up the most under-represented electoral group, to flex their electoral muscles and register to vote. Bite the Ballot joined forces with a numbers of organisations from across the country, from vInspired to Ofsted, to spread the word about the importance of voting and providing guidance of how to register.

The date of NVRD was chosen to mark the anniversary of 1832’s Great Reform Act which introduced voter registration, and Bite the Ballot will hold a NVRD each year.

Alongside an increased emphasis on political education for young people, organisations such as Bite the Ballot are playing an important part in helping to create a more informed and engaged young citizenry who can make difference in society, and the way society is governed.

For more information, visit: http://bitetheballot.co.uk/

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