I grew up on the East Coast of the US but now am a proud UK citizen and consider London my adopted home. One of the strongest reasons I wanted to become a UK citizen is that I felt strongly about democracy and wanted to have a voice in society and an option to have an input on decisions which affected my life.
In the recent Brexit vote, 82% of those 18-24 expected Remain to win in the lead up to the election, but only 36% of them registered (also a disappointing figure of those eligible) showed up to vote. There are approx 6.5M 18-24 year olds in the UK. This is nearly 10% of the 65M population and 13% of eligible voters.
Instead of being upset about this, I decided to do something about it. If your memory of voting the first time is anything like mine, it was a bit scary and intimidating and I feel strongly about empowering this group and to make them feel their voice counts and that they DO have a say in their future.
From discussions I have had, it seems there is limited education in schooling about the UK system, the EU system, etc so many young people feel they are not really sure what they are voting for, or how it all works. It seems those that do know something are those that selected specific GCSE or A-level paths. Knowledge about how our democracy works should be something ALL pupils learn and especially as they approach voting age. To this effect I have started a petition to the UK parliament here. This petition is increase public funding for education about our representative parliamentary democracy and any major political or economic organisations to which we are a member in future.
To further this effort, I would like to do more around voter registration and turnout. Rock the Vote in the US, started in 1990, had a big impact on me. During the 1992 elections Madonna, Red Hot Chili Peppers, R.E.M. etc all had influential videos as part of the campaign. I was 10 at the time, but I strongly remember MTV sponsoring Rock the Vote and how ‘cool’ it seemed to vote and really looked forward to being able to vote. In 1992 Rock the Vote efforts were credited with increasing voter turnout in 18-24 year olds by 18% in the presidential election. Here in the UK I would like to leverage sports stars, celebrities, musicians and other youth role models to encourage young people to register and vote. Young people don’t want adults or politicians telling them what to do, they want people their own age or those they admire, they want it to feel cool. If you want to hear more or can lend a hand, click here.
Marissa White, Founder