Today, all over the UK, we are going to the polls to elect local council members and Mayors. If there is an election on in your area I urge you to follow my example and get out to vote today. If nothing else it gives you an excuse to get out for a walk or some fresh air. It doesn’t take long and once it’s done you have had your say and done your bit for political representation. Here are a few other reasons why I vote.
Okay, so the title is misleading. In my adult life I think I have missed 1 or maybe 2 elections. One was definitely for an MEP and it’s possible I once missed a local council election. Now we have that little confessional out of the way, on with the post.
Firstly, and the point that’s so overdone, as a woman, people died for my right to vote. It wasn’t until 2015 that women in Saudi Arabia got the right to vote. A quick google search will tell you that the only country in the world where women can’t vote these days is the Vatican City however it has no parliament or political parties. If you are interested in the women’s suffrage movement around the world I found this handy timeline.
Statistically women, and especially young women, are underrepresented in politics. The fact that Mhairi Black’s election as an MP was such a huge news story is testament to that fact. That is not to say that a young woman may always be the best candidate to represent us politically however it’s crucial that young women at least make their voices heard at voter level. The youth vote can be an extremely powerful thing if we all turnout but time and time again it is the age bracket with the lowest turnout. At the 2015 General Election 18-24 turnout was 43% compared to 78% in the 65+ bracket.¹ It’s shocking. I once asked a friend why she doesn’t vote and her response was “it just doesn’t interest me.” After I’d picked my jaw up off the floor my next question was “so your future doesn’t interest you?”. I understand that young people can’t get their heads around the importance of a few people in suits sitting in a room in London. It’s great if you have so much privilege that it doesn’t affect you. Cuts to benefits? Doesn’t bother me. Tampon tax remaining and being used to fund pro-life organisations? I can afford it. But that attitude doesn’t just affect you, it impacts on thousands of people who rely on services or can’t afford things.
Over the past few weeks, since the announcement of the snap General Election in June, there has been a lot of debate on social media about whether you should vote for yourself and what you want or whether you should vote for the common good. I have thoughts on that but before we try to convince people how to use their vote we have to get them to the Polling Station in the first place. There is mounting pressure to allow 16-17 year olds the vote and I have no issue with that per se, but I think we need the bigger push to be on actually engaging those people who already have the right to vote.
Voting gives you power. It gives you a voice and, no, the person you vote for won’t always win, in fact, often they won’t, but we can’t expect change to happen overnight. All we can do is keep going out there and making our voices heard.