Politics for me had been a negative subject from a very young age and this was true for most of my peers. I ran for the local election because I'd realised there was a political void that needed filling. There seemed to be a growing gap between politics and the young people and I wanted to bridge it.
I strongly believe that it is important to make young people, who are the future of this country, a well-represented segment of society. If young people voted to the same extent as older people, we would have much greater power to have our interests protected.
It is tragic that young people haven't yet grasped just how much they could shake up the political system if they voted en mass. Our current voting rates are a cause for concern and it should be paramount for us to encourage young people to register and to eventually vote.
That is why I am backing a dedicated campaign to 'Change Things Now' which aims to ask young people what they would like the government to ban or legalise. It will also remind youngsters that if they don't register, they can't vote.
The lack of knowledge amongst many young people about the political system and process is another impediment to increased political participation. The campaign will attempt to tackle this issue by raising an awareness of the steps we can take to get more involved in matters that concern us.
We need to educate our youth a lot more on this matter. Many of my young constituents simply do not know how to register for their vote - evidently, our channels of communication are either broken or not being fully utilised. Furthermore, many are unaware of their rights and responsibilities as citizens, because this isn't a compulsory part of the current school curriculum. To help our youth become well-informed and active members of society once they are adults, we need to have some element of political education in our schools from a relatively young age. Failure to address these issues will only serve to further exacerbate the lack of youth involvement in politics.
With the majority of young people currently not registered on the electoral roll, and therefore not eligible to vote, it's little surprise that voter turnout among 18-24 year-olds is the lowest of any age group. Britain also has one of the widest gaps in voter turnout between younger and older people in Europe. It does, however, leave enough room for young people with vision, belief and a desire for change, to make a positive impact on society.
Young people are being increasingly marginalised because we are not currently a significant or powerful voting bloc. There is thus an urgent need for us to take a proactive approach to rectify this. Firstly, the current method of registering is in need of modernisation. In a period where services are increasingly being accessed online, it seems as though our electoral services have not kept pace. It is worth mentioning, for example, that the registration form still needs to be printed out, signed and posted. I am of course wary of casting us as lazy but this is a potential area for reform. Secondly, we need to look at how we vote. Online voting would reduce barriers to voting and also cut administration costs. We can also improve our traditional means of voting by setting up polling stations in universities. This is highly convenient and practical.
It is also a perfect opportunity to get involved in the 2014 Youth Elections too. Young people in Westminster (11-18) can vote for a Youth MYP and Deputy Youth MYP to represent them locally on the Tri-Borough Youth Council and nationally as part of the UK Youth Parliament. This is one way in which I got involved in politics and I hope that many more young people can be encouraged to do the same.
There are so many issues which affect young people's lives and we are putting ourselves at a great disadvantage by not voting. How can you help to change something if you don't include yourself in political dialogue? With rising long term youth unemployment and trebling of university fees, now is the time to make our voices heard.
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