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Voting campaign gathers momentum

If the health of a democracy depends on the participation of its citizens, voter apathy among young people indicates that not all is well. Last year James Bacon decided to take action by launching the Don’t Count Yourself Out campaign, as reported in HOT. With the general election now approaching, he describes how the campaign is seeking to get young people involved.

In the 2010 general election, only 44% of young adults aged 16 to 24 who were registered to vote exercised this right, compared with 76% of those aged 65 years and over. It was due to this major democratic concern that last year I founded Don’t Count Yourself Out, a local politically-neutral campaign group to encourage and educate young people about voting and the benefits of being active citizens. Similar schemes, such as Bite the Ballot, have sprung up across the country.

Bite the Ballot organise the annual National Voter Registration Day (NVRD) – held this year on 5 February, it caused a major buzz, with tens of thousands of young people registering to vote, including a record-breaking 160,140 who did so online.

Aiming to build on this momentum, my colleagues and I decided to have a DCYO stall at Sussex Coast College (SCC) on NVRD day. This wasn’t the first DCYO stall and certainly won’t be the last in the lead-up to the general election.

The campaign is not restricted to young people of voting age. We think the time at which to start inculcating a sense of citizenship is at primary school age. So following the success of our stall at SCC, we held another the next day at ARK Blacklands Primary Academy.

The reception and support we have managed to gather over the past nine months has been phenomenal. I have had the privilege of leading assemblies, discussions, stalls and debate clubs throughout the town and I look forward with excitement to continuing this work in the community and local academies during the coming months.

If we are to develop a sense of active citizenship among children and young adults it is essential that they realise the importance of voting and the difference it can make if they count themselves as active members of society rather than passive bystanders who allow others to make their decisions for them.

The various discussions I have had throughout the campaign have been enlightening and reveal how passionate young people are about certain issues. The problem is transferring that passion into a habit of voting and engaging in a system which has been deemed corrupt and dishonoured. Nevertheless, I have faith in our political system and through education and the better representation of young people I believe this potential voter apathy will be reversed. This is where Don’t Count Yourself comes in: we aim to combat this democratic deficit and assist in the process of making politics relevant and purposeful to young people.

Council leader Jeremy Birch talks to primary school citizens-to-be.

Local politicians have also become involved. All three main parliamentary candidates for Hastings – Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat – have endorsed our campaign. The deputy mayor, Councillor Judy Rogers, and the leader of Hastings Borough Council, Jeremy Birch, have both led an assembly at ARK Blacklands Primary Academy, explaining the importance of voting and being active citizens.

Despite the focus on voting, Jeremy and I have also extended the theme onto how young people can make a difference and have an influence in how their community is run at any age. This is at the heart of active citizenship and how we can ensure all children and young people feel involved in making the decisions which affect their community and their lives, both locally and nationally.

We have also recently branched out into Kent, where DCYO is represented at the Simon Langton Girls’ Grammar School in Canterbury via their newly formed Politics Society.

We look forward to continuing our work in Hastings, through schools, youth groups and other means. I will also be teaching some Year 7 politics lessons as the Don’t Count Yourself Out representative over the coming couple of months.

 

If you would like to request a stall or visit from DCYO, please contact us through our Facebook campaign page. You can also follow the campaign on Twitter at @DCYO2015.

 

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Thank you for your continued support!

Posted 09:25 Wednesday, Mar 4, 2015 In: Campaigns

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