We keep hearing about young people being less likely to vote, and in particular young women (the #SHEvotes campaign is a great thing in my opinion). And we keep hearing about all the reasons you SHOULD vote:
- It’s a privilege others have died fighting to get (think suffragettes, countries today where a free vote isn’t everyone’s right).
- It’s a responsibility (you can’t complain about the government if you don’t bother voting, even if you don’t want to vote FOR a party you could think of it as a vote AGAINST another party you don’t like)
- It doesn’t take long and at worst it’s just ten minutes wasted from your day.
But I can’t help wondering how many people, and especially young people who haven’t voted before, don’t vote simply because they’re a bit intimidated and don’t know how?
I’m lucky, my parents used to take me along when they voted from a really early age so it’s always been something I’ve known. I even shamed them into voting, aged 6, when we were in the middle of a storm and they’d decided ‘not to bother’ voting in the local election that evening. But I can totally see that if you don’t know what to expect it could be a daunting experience, and that can easily be enough to stop you making the effort. So, a few hopefully helpful hints:
- If you’ve registered to vote, you’ll have had a polling card through the door in the last few weeks. It’s an A5 bit of card, black print on white and will tell you where your polling station is. You have to go to the one on the card, where you live.
- Polling stations are open from 7am until 10pm so hopefully you should be able to fit it in around work and other fun stuff. Sometimes there’s a queue but more often than not I’ve found I just walk straight in.
- If you know you’re going to have trouble getting to a polling station you have a couple of options (although it’s too late for tomorrow). You can register for a postal vote, which you send in before the election, or you can register for a proxy vote, where someone you trust is given your ballot paper on your behalf, and fills it in for you on the day.
- The polling card is helpful because it tells you where to vote, but you don’t actually need to take it with you on the day. When you get there you’ll see a desk with several people at it. They’ll ask for your address and check who you are. They’ll then give you a ballot paper (lists the candidates), direct you to a voting booth (a little enclosed desk so that nobody can see what you write) and show you where to put your ballot paper after you’ve marked it.
- The ballot paper will tell you how many people to vote for (depending on the type of election). You normally put an X next to the person you want to vote for. Don’t write anything else on the paper otherwise your vote probably won’t be counted.
- Pop the paper in the ballot box and away you go!
- Sometimes there might be people sitting outside who ask who you are and if you’ve voted, especially earlier in the day. They’re from the local political parties and they just want to know who you are so they can cross you off their list of doors to knock on for last-minute canvassing during the day. You don’t have to give them any details of who you are, whether you’ve voted or how you voted. Just a friendly ‘no thanks should be fine. They’ll usually just be happy you’ve come along and used your vote!
If you have more questions, check out the Your Vote Matters website (because your vote DOES matter).