Apathetic about AV?
Annie is an A-level English student. She's passionate about increasing young people's political awareness and campaigns with the SHM Foundation to defeat political apathy.
Annie believes the Alternative Vote (AV) referendum on May 5 is a great way to get more young people involved in politics. She says if you want to be heard, you have to make yourself heard...
Shockingly, in the last general election, it was proved Britons between the ages of 18 and 25 preferred to abstain from voting. In fact only a mere 40% in comparison to 65% of the overall population chose to go to the polls.
It's not surprising. Voting isn't always appealing. We tend to feel politics is for old ugly people. And, admit it, some of us haven't spent enough time watching Question Time to figure out who all the major players on the political scene are. On a recent holiday a friend of mine asked me who Gordon Brown was. 'A chef?' she enquired. After correcting her I decided to ask her who she thought the current Prime Minister was. To my dismay, she answered she could not care less about Britain's 'president'.
One of the reasons politics is regarded as both boring and irrelevant is perhaps that many young people don't believe they can really influence the government's decisions. In fairness, that isn't surprising. Nick Clegg hasn't exactly proved himself to be what you'd class a straight-shooter. Politicians are seen as sleazy and untrustworthy. It doesn't seem so much that young people aren't interested in politics but more that politics isn't interested in us.
That's not necessarily the case though. Ministers have considered lowering the voting age from 18 to 16. The Electoral Commission, which governs national and local elections, has examined the possibility of cutting the minimum age to stand for Parliament from 21 to 18. And now the AV referendum will give us all a chance to actually change our voting system.
The problem is that if we act like we're not interested in voting, then politicians know they don't have to bother with us. We don't represent a threat, because we won't affect their chances in an election.
But who actually has the power to change the system? We do.
But who actually has the power to change the system? We do. Our opportunity to vote on AV is the first national referendum about our voting system. Ever. Are we going to miss out on the opportunity to make history?
One of the problems is that AV is complicated. So here are the pros and cons of AV as I see them.
Some argue AV is the way forward primarily because MPs will have to work harder to both earn and keep your support. With the present system electing MPs with one vote in three, they'll have much more competition from other parties with the new system. With this in mind, theoretically parliament will better represent our communities, as MPs will have to adapt and act on your views to gain support. It also challenges the MPs with 'safe seats' who, with the new system, will be forced to reach out to the people they seek to represent if they're not already doing so. In addition to this, as AV requires you to ranks candidates, so smaller parties are given bigger chances at obtaining a seat in parliament. Your voice is also arguably stronger, because even if your first choice doesn't win, you still have a say.
On the other hand, others argue AV fails to correct the failures of our present voting system. In fact it has been suggested AV is a 'politician's fix', designed to make life easier for them. If the system leads to more hung parliaments, politicians rather than voters debatably hold the power. AV will also cost up to an additional £250 million. Should government spend a quarter of a billion pounds of taxpayers' money just to bring in a new voting system? Opponents of AV also claim the system to be complex and unfair as the second and/or third choice candidates can actually be elected.
I'm not going to tell you which way I'll vote, because I'm not trying to persuade you either way. What matters is that you vote. The referendum is a rare opportunity for you to have a direct say on Britain's future, so don't waste it. Your vote is your power.