What will it take for more young people to vote?

Rye and Battle news SUS-150127-105627001
Rye and Battle news SUS-150127-105627001

In less than 100 days Britain will vote for a new government.

Pollsters are calling the May 2015 general election arguably the most important vote in Britain in a generation.

Yet no one expects many youngsters to turn up at the polls. At the last General Election in 2010 only 44 per cent of those aged 18-24 voted compared with 76 per cent of those aged over 65.

Wooing and re-engaging young voters is of paramount importance.

Many students don’t believe their vote will make any difference, but the last election proved that to be untrue with the Liberal Democrats registering around 30 per cent of the vote amongst 18- 24-yea-olds and forming part of our Coalition Government.

And locally, young people form a significant part of our composition in Hastings and Rye with around 9,000 18- 24-year-olds eligible to vote in May.

From my many visits to schools and colleges across the constituency I have seen firsthand that the local youth are not only diverse, passionate and opinionated (in a good way) but are more educated and digitally fluent than ever before.

But reaching young voters is hard. Many are constantly on the move and first time voters do not appear in many databases.

Very often they do not even realise an election is at hand.

Individual registration is now a new legal requirement and in order to vote in the General Election on May 7, all students must be registered by April 20.

Residential students can register at both their home address and their term time address but will need to choose whether to vote in the General Election in their home constituency, or their constituency at university or college.

Anyone who is a British citizen aged 16 or over can register. Registration can be done in around five minutes online or by post- more details about how to register can be found here: http://www.aboutmyvote.co.uk/register-to-vote/how-to-register-to-vote

For me it’s obvious that young people have a place at the heart of democracy and that as politicians we need to gain young voters’ trust and communicate effectively.

That is why I am participating in a Student Question Time at Sussex Coast College on Wednesday, April 22 from 10am until midday where young voters can discuss key questions on a range of political issues.

Additionally, next month I am attending a Reception in Parliament held with VInspired where I will hear directly from several young people on how we can get them to the ballot box in May.

The young local people I meet week in week out are inquisitive, engaged and creative, full of aspiration and entrepreneurial talent.

We are very lucky in Hastings and Rye to have a new, younger generation as ambitious and optimistic as any before and we must not forget that we need their voice in politics.

PS: It’s National Voter Registration Day 2015 on February 5 , marking the anniversary of the Great Reform Act 1832 which first introduced the system of voter registration- I will be continuing to raise awareness around voter registration and encourage more people locally to get registered and voting.

To find out how to get more involved in National Voter Registration Day please visit http://bitetheballot.co.uk/