The importance of the youth vote

June 25th, 2024

Written by Alex Fairweather, CEO of GMYN

With just over a week to go before the General Election, I have been part of various meetings and discussions regarding young people and voting.

There is sometimes a sense amongst the younger British electorate that there’s no point, or it won’t change anything. We can all agree that this is a real shame, but we can also see why just by reading a newspaper or watching the news. Often young peoples’ needs are ignored in favour of more intergenerational decisions and changes in policy. We have seen first hand the increase in student debt, reductions in mental health services and disproportionate service provision depending on what postcode you live in.

I have witnessed and had to deal with the huge cuts in youthwork provision through my time at Greater Manchester Youth Network (GMYN) with no desire from Governments to invest or appreciate the impact of this short term and long term. And no, larger national youth programmes can’t fix everything or replace local place based provision! I have heard politicians say they understand the importance of youth work and the importance of youth voice, but I then see very little done about it. Just more false promises or sticking-plasters put on problems needing a lot more than that.

So yes, I can understand the disillusionment of how some young people feel about the upcoming election, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try and change this. Younger voters have just as much right to hold the current and future government to account as older voters, in fact some people would say more so.

Young people do care, they care a lot, about their local communities, their friends, family, carers etc, and also, they care a great deal about the planet we all live on. This is their future, and it is our collective responsibility to help young people change their views about politics and voting, to help create a brighter future for them and future generations.

As a CEO of a youth charity actively encouraging young people’s voice and influence, I can list off many different examples of how young people have instigated change. I have seen and continue to see their passion, their empathy and their desire to improve their lives and the lives of others. If we could all try and use this passion and energy to encourage more young people to vote, it would make a huge difference.

The deadline to register to vote was last week, the 18th of June. Although there were still the same barriers in place preventing or discouraging young people to register (some young people don’t have permanent addresses, there are less photographic identification options for young people etc), there has been some positive results. Although we don’t have the huge numbers we would like (Approx 25% of new registered voters are under 25), we can still have an impact.

Give an X ( a great example of a youth-led, non-partisan youth voter registration campaign. Its aim was to get as many young people registered to vote and now encourages them to vote on polling day by proving useful advice and tips on what to do regarding the voting process. It’s a great campaign which aims to treat young adults as they should be, young voters that have as much say as everyone else.

But what can we all do to help?

I hate it when I read the line “if you don’t vote, you can’t moan or have a say”.  No, that is not the case at all. Young people can have a say if and when decisions affect them. If it is the political and electoral system that is not inclusive, then we know we need to change the system to help young people get involved and be less disconnected from politics. There are bigger problems to fix here and that isn’t helped by just blaming young people for “not being bothered”.

We need to support our young people, and if there’s now an extra approximately 800,000 registered voters aged under the age of 25, we need to make sure they go to that ballot box on the 4th July and make their choice. We need to make sure they feel informed, engaged and know that their vote can make a difference. We can also help young people understand the voting process. Do they know what to do? Have they got the right ID? Do they know who the candidates are? We can help remove some of the potential barriers to voting and help ensure our young people feel part of the electoral process.

I know what I’m going to do, what about you?

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