Young voters could decide the next election — so why hasn't the Government told them about crucial registration changes?

A failure to publicise the new system means that many will be turned away from polling stations next year

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The Independent Online

In May we'll have the opportunity to decide the fate of the UK’s political system for the next five years. And with some predicting that we may end up with a multi-party coalition, everything is up for grabs.

What worries me though, is that despite people aged 18-24 having the power to shake up the political system, not enough of them are engaged or educated about politics to do so.

The youth vote could swing as many as 200 seats in the next election. That's almost a third of all (650) UK Parliament seats. Yet an increasing number of young voters aren't even registered to vote, due to the recent change in the registration process. Every individual has to register to vote now, instead of every household. In places such as Oxford, registrations in some wards with large student populations fell by 60 per cent since this change from Household Registration to Individual Electoral Registration.

I might have missed the memo, but to my knowledge the Government has failed miserably in telling people about this. How can anyone call young people "apathetic" when the Government doesn't bother to publicise such crucial changes to the registration system? Those who have suddenly fallen off the register will end up going to the polls at the next General Election, only to hear that they're not able to vote.

Imagine if the 5m young people in the UK were registered and turned out to vote. Do you really think politicians could feel that they could easily let us down and shift the debts of the older generation onto us? We're facing the brunt of Coalition’s cuts like no other age group. We're also the least likely to show an "interest in politics" and get registered and vote. This makes us the demographic the age group is least likely to write policies for. So it's not surprising that politicians aren't writing a manifesto for us.

 

One of the reasons young people tell me they don't vote is because they don't know enough about politics - because no one's reached out to explain how important it is. But it's also because they don't know who or what to vote for; the political parties are "all the same" to them.

Any political party which wants to help the young should start by producing youth manifestos. This would help to make it clear to their younger voters what they will do for them if they decide to vote. Yet so far the Greens are the only party who have led on this simple idea.

But young people also need to be able to engage with our political leaders more. Bite The Ballot is currently running #LeadersLive events, which will provide an opportunity for people to grill the main UK party leaders live. So far, they've already had the Green Party's Natalie Bennett, Ed Miliband and Nigel Farage. 

This series of debates is one of the first times that the leaders of the political parties will be telling us in plain English what policies their parties have and why they are after your votes. So if you're a young voter and want to see how your vote might change the way our country works, I'd definitely encourage you to tune in. Although don't forget to register to vote under the new system as well. Otherwise, what's the point?

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