By Matilda Gladwell, work experience
Exercising our right to vote is crucial. By voting, we can choose the best candidates to legislate on matters which affect our day-to-day lives, from social issues to climate action.
I recently met with Claire Coutinho, and asked her to explain why she believes voting matters:
“Voting is the cornerstone of our democracy,” she told me. “Through voting, each of us has the great privilege of helping to decide how we should organise our shared life as a national community. It is a powerful way to express our views and interests, as well as honour the sacrifices that previous generations have made to secure us these rights.”
From the suffragettes, who fought so that women could vote on the same terms as men, to the current youth action groups who are campaigning to have the voting age lowered to 16, there have been significant movements throughout history to increase participation in democracy.
However, many young people choose not to vote. Since the 1970s, 18 to 24 year olds have had the lowest turnout in every election, with just over 50% of this age group voting in the 2019 general election.
So why is this?
Firstly, this is an extremely busy period of young people’s lives. Whether they have job interviews, apprenticeship applications or dissertation deadlines looming over them, most young people are often too preoccupied with trying to take their first steps up the career ladder to vote.
Additionally, voting is a huge responsibility. With each political party having multiple candidates and policies to learn about, the amount of research that is needed before deciding the best candidate to vote for can be overwhelming. And, as students don’t have set lessons on politics in school, unless they decide to take politics A level at age 17, it can often feel like starting from square one.
When I asked Claire if she had any advice for those people who may be anxious by the responsibility of voting, she said that she understood why young people ‘might feel daunted voting’ as she agreed it is ‘a significant responsibility’.
“I would say to young people that they should research the candidates and their parties as thoroughly as they can to decide which fit best with their views on the issues they care about most,” she advised. “In a democracy, compromise is inescapable, but I hope that they will find that on the whole, the people who take the jump to become a candidate are doing so for the right reasons.”
Young people, therefore, should not be daunted by their right to vote but celebrate it, and use it to help shape a society which benefits them.