Naked Politics Blogger
‘If voting changed anything they’d make it illegal.’ Is an often quoted sentiment and though last year’s general election saw the biggest turnout since Tony Blair’s first triumph in 1997 the amount of young people voting (categorised as ages 18-24, not including me at the ripe old age of 27…) remained pretty unchanged, with those in their formative years almost half as likely to vote as those who have reached the knee creaking age of 65.
Personally, I like to vote and have taken almost every opportunity since coming of age, (shocking for someone who writes political columns). I did miss a district council by-election in which all the candidates looked a bit bonkers…
Anyway, I’m a voter so I feel I can legitimately whinge if I don’t like the result. It’s the same as saving your favourite or booting people off of the X Factor, Strictly Come Dancing or whatever, if you don’t take part you can’t really cry foul when you don’t get the outcome you wanted. Which is why professional stomach turner and spiritual bendy man Russell Brand’s pseudo proletariat crusade to encourage non-voting really ticked me off even if he did decide to join the (not big enough) Millifandom in the end.
It is then fairly well established that political dispiritedness is scarily endemic in millennials. The cyclical rut both the youth and the so called ‘man’ are trapped in spirals on as policies are not proposed to delight a demographic who don’t take part in the electoral process. Though I don’t agree with it, I understand why individuals chose not to exercise their vote but what alarms me is the hordes of young people who have dropped of the Electoral Roll without even realising they will no longer be able to visit a drafty hall and put a cross in a box.
This is due to changes to how the Electoral Roll is put together aimed at combatting fraud. We now have an Individual Electoral Registration (IER) system which (surprisingly) means that folks must now register individually, whereas before one party could register a household.
However, this didn’t mean that a tabula rasa occurred, those on the roll whose existing details could be confirmed by data matching information held about them by the Department for Work and Pensions stay on without having to reregister. Transitional arrangements were also enacted which meant that until the general election last year anyone on the household register from December 2013 could still vote (as long as their address had not changed). However, many who weren’t able to be matched via address records have now been wiped off the register. Young people have been disproportionally hit by this, as they are more likely to be in private rented or short term accommodation which generally means they move more often.
This has been a particular hindrance for students who can no longer be registered at their home address by mummy or in bulk by their university. The Electoral Commission themselves admitted extra efforts would be needed to ensure that students were not disenfranchised.
Electoral reform isn’t particularly sexy or digestible and the lack of awareness that the rules have changed is understandable. However, this year it’s more vital than ever that young people are able to vote with the EU referendum looming over us, like a distant relative coming in for an unwanted kiss. The polls concerning the demographics on this matter are stark with those under 30 reportedly supporting continued membership by almost 2:1, while the over 60s favour Brexit by 52-48%.
Generation Y and those following them are the ones who will be most affected should we chose to go out for milk and never come back to the EU, so it’s imperative they can vote. I don’t want to see us vamoose from the union based on the votes of those who may not even live long enough to see full impact of what this could mean for Britain. The issue of voting on something that will disproportionally affect those furthest away from their twilight years was at least recognised in the catchier ‘indyref’ in Scotland where 16 and 17 year olds were included in the franchise.
The outcome of the EU referendum will be a momentous decision for the country and I really hope nobody loses their say because of some poorly explained changes to electoral registration.