Tasmia is a co-creator from the 2014-5 cycle of the Star Track Programme. She aspires to be a writer and has been greatly involved with the London 2012 Games, firstly as a Waltham Forest Youth Ambassador, and then as a Legacy Youth Panel representative and Legacy Youth Board Member. She hopes to use her experiences to help influence positive and sustainable development for young people in East London.
Tasmia Tahia explains why democracy doesn’t work without your votes.
Why should young people vote? With less than a hundred days to go until the General Election, politics, policies, promises and above all politicians are taking over our screens, from our TV to our social media newsfeed. So with all the drama unfolding, all the promises being made, policies and counter-policies from the leading parties, young people are often left wondering: why should I even vote?
Politicians and politics, do not have the most positive image in our society, to say the least. In the wise words of Taylor Swift, “while you’ve been getting down and out about the liars and the dirty, dirty cheats of the world /You could’ve been getting down” to some good music. But is it really that easy to shake it off?
Young people are, like everybody else, affected by the decisions that politicians make, but often we do not realise this. Things like university fees, taxation, welfare benefits like Job Seeker’s Allowance, the future of the NHS are all topics which affect young people, yet our opinions are often not heard in the right places.
Imagine a day out with a group of friends. The decision of where to eat is always made by majority rule. Similarly, the decision between Strictly or X Factor on Saturday evening is made based on the choice of the majority of the family. Politicians operate using a similar principle of majority rule. Since they wish to retain the maximum amount of voters, politicians make policies attractive for those most likely to vote in the elections.
72% of over-65s voted in the 2013 local elections, compared to 32% 18-25 year olds. Not surprisingly, services for the elderly faced 10% cuts, while young people’s services were cut nearly three times more (28%). An unequal proportion of turnouts means older voters are able to skew the results. Also, it gives politicians less incentive to write policies that would benefit young people.[i]
Let us also consider the situation from another angle. In the 2010 General Elections, the difference in votes between the top two parties (Conservative and Labour) was 2.1 million. With 3.3 million young people eligible to vote, our votes could make a significant difference in a close election like this one.
The importance of young people’s votes can also be seen from another perspective. In a recent YouGov poll, 88% of first-time voters said that Prime Minister David Cameron is not the right person to run the country. However, in the same poll, 59% said they would not be voting in the 2015 General Elections. This is around 1.97 million votes lost. Again, keeping in mind the difference between Labour and conservatives in 2010, the “lost” votes could make all the difference.[ii]
At the end of the day, politicians only understand one language, and that is the dry, numeric language of votes. The sooner more young people start voting, the quicker policies will be created to attract these young voters, and the overall gain would be in the changes that we want to see.
Last September, my fellow co-creator Kishan, myself and two other young people joined together to raise awareness among other first time voters, because our votes only count if lots of other young people also decide to vote. Our Twitter campaign, #iVote2015 is designed to raise awareness and encourage young people to vote in the upcoming General Election. We are a cross-party campaign, so we don’t want to tell you who to vote for. We do however want you to vote!
So whether you are angry about university fees, think a particular politician is not a good person to run the country or are simply worried about cuts to your benefits, make sure you go out and vote on the 7th May. Don’t forget to tweet us with the hashtag #iVote2015, to keep the conversation going, and to persuade more young people to vote in May.
[i] BBC News UK: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-23832607
Written by Tasmia Tahia
Photography courtesy of Flickr