Wanted: Young People (yes, you really are wanted….and desperately needed)
Can you do something for me?
Are you free on May 7th? Any time, any place.. I’ll only need you for five minutes.
The requirements are simple. You must be over 18, a citizen of the UK and be able to write an ‘x’. It is one of the easiest positions you’ll ever apply for.
It’s also completely free, and makes a big impact in terms of doing good.
Fit the requirements? Good. What I need you to do is simple.
I need you to vote.
This year, I will be a Counting Assistant for the General Election. That means sitting in a drafty hall in the middle of the night counting thousands of votes by hand, and then counting them again and again to make sure there are no mistakes. It’s ten hours plus of shuffling paper, losing count and starting again. By the time you leave the sun is up and you feel like one of The Undead.
Obviously, if you vote, that’s just adding to my workload. So why do I want you to do it so badly?
On May 7th, 3.3 million young people will be able to vote for the first time. Exciting, right? So why are YouGov estimating that more than 2 million of us won’t? Why are young people least likely to vote on the issues that will shape our future?
Why don’t young people vote?
The answers are depressingly obvious. YouGov reports that young people don’t believe that any of the main political leaders understand the issues most important to them.
They also feel ignored. When asked who they felt politicians were most likely to listen to, young people put themselves below big businesses, trade unions, homeowners, pensioners, families with young children and even celebrities. They put themselves last.
And that, right there, is the problem.
If you put yourself last, so will everyone else. If you think you don’t matter, neither will the government. If you don’t speak how can you expect anyone to listen?
Anything you think or feel or say is wrong with how the country is run doesn’t mean a thing unless the people that matter can actually hear you say it. Voting is your voice.
Our voice is needed
Right now, young people are having a pretty appalling time of things.
A full 11% of young people believe they will never own their own home. In London, 18% of 17-21 year olds think they will never be able to rent – that’s rent, not buy – their own home. More than a quarter have been forced to work zero hour contracts. More than a quarter are already in at least £5,000 worth of debt.
Young people do not feel optimistic about their future, and for good reason. Voting is such a simple way of fixing that.
Make your voice count
It isn’t just who you vote for, but the fact of voting at all that makes the difference. Politicians need to impress the people who might actually vote for them. If we hear a lot about pensions in the run up to the election, that’s because 75% of people over 65 vote. Additionally, rich people have always voted more than poor people, and that gap is increasing. Only we can counter that by voting.
If you vote, you’re registering your opinion. If you don’t think anyone properly represents you, go ahead and spoil your ballot. You’re still registering your opinion, you’re still voting and it keeps us Counting Assistants awake (sarcastic comments are particularly appreciated).
If everyone who didn’t vote was spoiling their ballot rather than not voting at all, politicians would view that as a huge slice of the public to potentially win over. That’s a very good thing, because then they would need to start listening to what those people actually want.
If young people voted as much as pensioners we might get as many favourable policies as they do.
So are you ready to do this?
Make sure you’re registered
The most important thing is to make sure you’re registered to vote. Just follow this link to find out if you’re registered and if not do so. It’s really easy and quick, but you need to do it by the 20th of April to make sure you can vote.
Other than that, just rock up on the day and tick a box. It’s that easy.
Find out more
If you aren’t sure who to vote for (or just feel disillusioned by the whole thing), try Vote for Policies, where you can select the areas you care about most and find out what each party is really promising. Or how about Vote Match? This quiz only takes a few minutes to give you an idea of which parties might suit your values the most.
In terms of young people voting, change is slowly coming. Over the last three weeks, over a million people have registered to vote – and most of them are young people
But I still need you to vote. Whether you’re young or old, voting for the first time or not. Make counting those endless bits of paper worth it for me.
Everyone voting makes our society a fairer place. Make sure you are heard.