Voting as a political and social act is often something we consider to be part and parcel of everyday life. In fact, we have become so accustomed to voting that a culture of apathy has grown around the act. Despite young voters surging to the polling booths in 2017 (64% aged 18-24), young voters on average remain the lowest ranking demographic to politically enfranchise themselves at the general election.
It is imperative to remember that voting, indeed democratic free association as a whole, is undoubtedly a privilege, and one that young people in particular can use to their advantage. We must remember how hard previous generations have fought for their democratic right to choose who governs them, and how much of the world is yet to achieve the political liberties we in the UK take for granted.
Furthermore, to simply reduce political enfranchisement and the figurative vote (to politically align oneself to a concept and actively seek its implementation) distorts the degree of freedom we can realistically exercise, if we simply choose to engage.
As students, NUS provides the perfect democratising platform through which you can have your voice heard. Mutual aid, collective action and cooperation are infinitely more effective political tools than nefarious, rampant competitiveness. The will of many is always sure to overcome the will of the few.
Student activism has achieved so much in the past twelve months, consider what could be done if we all as voters participated too.
The New Regulatory Framework for students unions and how these have increased the political enfranchisement of student bodies and improved the experience of higher education. Continued student activism has ensured that the political and social enfranchisement of women and the realisation of a post-patriarchal society continues to be realised. By participating in surveys such as these, the student body can work towards a rehabilitative, harm-reduction-focused approach to drug use and abuse.
By supporting the recent USS-UCU Pension dispute (Universities’ College Union), the student body demonstrated the power of collective, unionised movement to implement long standing change. Using strategic campaign guides students provided valuable and continue to support the strikers. Finally, last year, after a snap election was called in the United Kingdom two million extra millennials registered to vote to make sure their voices were heard, and they were. Students and young people swung the vote and left our mark on the political scene.
So #WhyStopNow? Students and young people need to be on the agenda in the local elections on 3 May. We’ve seen that politicians easily ignore us because we aren’t registered. But across the UK, students and young people can swing the vote. So let’s get registered and decide the election.
We are a force to be reckoned with… and one that politicians cannot ignore. Students must get registered by Tuesday 17 April to make sure your voices are heard!
Robbie Young is vice president (society & citizenship) at the NUS