The next general election will take place on Thursday 7 May 2015. If you are a young person and you want to exercise your right to help shape the UK’s next government then you need to be registered to vote. Unfortunately, millions of young people are currently missing from the electoral register.
To help get more young people registered to vote, the campaign group Bite the Ballot has organised National Voter Registration Day on Thursday 5 February. Last year, the 2014 National Voter Registration day managed to add 50,000 names to the electoral register just in one day, and this year they have set themselves the even more ambitious target of registering a further 250,000 people.
Why should I vote?
Far too many young people are currently disengaged from politics. At the last general election in 2010, just 44% of people aged 18–24 actually turned out to vote, the lowest level among any age group of voters by far.
This is worrying because it means young people aren’t involved in many of the political decisions which have a big impact on their lives. The Coalition Government has pursued a number of policies which have affected young people, including increasing the cap on tuition fees to £9,000 per year and abolishing the Education Maintenance Allowance for low-income students in England, but if young people don’t vote then they lose the best means they have of making politicians listen to them.
Many people would also argue that as we are fortunate to live in a democracy in Britain – something which millions of people around the world still don’t have access to – we have a duty as citizens to go out and vote. Voting is easy – you just need to go along to your local polling station on the day of the election and spend five minutes completing your ballot – but if we don’t do it then we are giving away one of our most important human rights, leaving us with no say over who will end up governing us.
How can I register to vote?
Although you can’t actually vote until after you turn 18, you can register to vote from the age of 16. Registering to vote is very simple, although a recent study by the Electoral Commission found that 40% of people didn’t realise it was possible to register online (rising to 53% among 18–24 year olds).
In reality, anyone can register to vote online in a matter of minutes using the Gov.UK website:
If you don’t have access to the internet then you still register to vote by filling in Bite the Ballot’s paper form and sending it to your local council:
To mark National Voter Registration Day, Bite the Ballot and its supporters are running dozens of events all across the UK. To find your nearest one and take part, you can use the interactive map on their website.
Am I already registered to vote?
You may already be registered to vote, in which case you don’t need to do anything. To find out if you are already registered you need to contact your local Electoral Registration Officer, whose details you can find my simply entering your postcode on the government’s About my vote webpage: http://www.aboutmyvote.co.uk/