Politicians are motivated primarily by re-election. That shouldn't be a surprise to you (even though we can all agree- morally, it's not great!) This means that our decision-makers write policies for people who participate - those that are registered to vote, and those that actually turn out to vote. As a result us younger citizens are often ignored. Our registration and election turnout figures are the lowest of all age groups and therefore we have suffered. Tuition fees tripling, the scrapping of Educational Maintenance Allowance and the extreme cuts to youth services are examples of this.
In my job at Bite The Ballot, I often come into contact with young people who have things they want to change in their lives and communities. They are extremely passionate on a huge range of issues and they have the imagination and creativity to see how simple changes could impact their community. But what they don't necessarily do is link these issues to their participation in our democratic system.
As a generation we hold a lot of power and we have the power to enforce the changes we want. By registering to vote, we BECOME votes worth winning. Our details become part of a list that politicians, or at least people who work for politicians read. We then get included in their re-election strategy. Our views and opinions will automatically be listened to and valued. Then, we ARE votes worth winning.
Let's take an example. In the 2010 General Election, over 75% of 65+ year olds turned out to vote. Now, compare this to the quarter of 18-24 year olds who voted. The tripling of tuition fees has saved the government around £3billion (although, some argue it has actually saved them nothing). This equates to a similar cost when you combine the savings that would be made by means testing the winter fuel payments, free TV licences and free bus travel that the over 65 age group are entitled to (i.e. if you're wealthy you don't need all this free stuff). When making cuts politicians had a choice and they chose to let down young people. There were other options but, we were easier to disappoint, because if you're not on the register you're not visible and NOT a vote worth winning.
Today is National Voter Registration Day. A day aimed at raising awareness around voter registration in the UK. There have recently been changes in the way you register to vote. It is no longer up to the head of household to register you (your mum, dad, halls of residence, housemate). YOU must register yourself. At Bite The Ballot, we are working with partners to make sure as many people as possible know about the changes and join the electoral register. Our call to you is to use today as an opportunity to show the country that young people aren't 'apathetic' or 'lazy'. We are powerful, mobilized and ready to demand change. The first step is registering to vote.
Join us and make sure you're on the register. It will take less than five minutes of your time. Visit gov.uk/register-to-vote.