Make Voting Count

Written by Total Politics has a free weekly Friday email bulletin. Follow this link to register. on 16 June 2014 in Diary
Rachael Farrington explains how she is encouraging fellow young people to head to the ballot box

Being seventeen and a summer baby is terrible. All of your friends are going out while you’re stuck, still battling your way towards passing your driving test and waiting around for the day you finally turn eighteen.

For me, the worst thing about being seventeen is being unable to vote.

I’m known well in my school and community for being the politics geek, and according to our end of year awards I’m ‘most likely to rule the world’. Every day I have conversations with my peers about politics, and I found that most of them ended up asking me what each of the parties believes in. So I conducted an informal survey to find out how many of them intended to vote in the General Election next May. A huge amount of them said that they would if it was a bit clearer who believed in what.

In 2010 only 44% of 18-24 year olds voted in the General Election, and political minds are constantly trying to figure out a way to engage this age group.

It got me thinking. How could I get my friends into politics? They were all eighteen and ready to vote in May, but they weren’t planning to because of the lack of simple and clear information.

I thought the best way to get them involved was to help educate them, and the best medium to do this would be the Internet. So Voting Counts was born. I initially intended the website to help out young adults in my local area, but the response I’ve had has been unbelievable.

The website’s concept is simple. It tells you why you should vote and then presents break downs of the parties’ ideologies in an unbiased way. It helps young people understand why it’s vital to get involved and, most importantly, it allows them to make an informed decision at the ballot box, uninfluenced by the media, family and friends.

When I launched the website to my school my fellow students were more than complimentary about it. This gave me the courage to look into expanding it. Since then it’s become a bit of a whirlwind. I’ve contacted just about every politician under the sun, with brilliant results. Lib Dem peer Lord Storey has endorsed me and Voting Counts has also been featured in publications such as The Big Issue and The Guardian. Traffic to the website is growing daily, and not just from the UK.

The website has grown too, it’s now got information on how to vote, a key terms glossary and even a who’s who guide to the cabinet and shadow cabinet amongst other things. Now I’m looking to expand its content further, creating a simple yet informative resource for young people.

In terms of monitoring its success there is little I can do to see the impact of my website alone. But I have been able to see its effects on those from my own school. The European Elections in May were the website’s first big test. Although I’d not had the opportunity to create specific content for the election the website was busier than ever, and judging by the reaction from my class mates it was still helping. I arrived at college on the morning of the 22nd to find debates amongst students about the European Union in full swing, everyone excitedly discussing whom they we’re going to vote for that evening. One or two had even voted on their way in that morning.

Almost everyone had logged onto my website at some point and read the party descriptions. Although more focused on the General Elections, they seemed to help people make their mind up. Anyone who had expressed an intention not to vote was pounced upon and pointed in the direction of my website. What everyone found most amusing though was that the person who had fuelled this ‘chaos’, me, was the one person who couldn’t vote.

But I was in my element. And the election fever didn’t start and end in Cheshire. I had requests from all over the UK for flyers, with students from South Wales, Bristol and Cornwall all eager to spread the message in their schools.

The project is continuing to grow, and now my exams are finally over I intend to try and keep up with it all. I’m excited to be heading this project and proud to see the impact it’s having, even if it is on a small scale.


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