There is No Better Time To Be Heard

Elisabeth Pop - 08 10 18

Britain is going through some testing times. Brexit is fast approaching and there is even talk of a snap general election. But many groups remain under-registered and as we’ve seen during our democratic engagement campaign before the 2018 London local elections, there is an increased sense of apathy and disillusion with the current state of politics.

Since September – with the support of partners from across civil society – HOPE not hate is running civic engagement actions to ensure democracy works for everyone and those most in need of a voice are heard.

a poster which says "new academic year to do list...find out where all the freshers parties are...get course timetable...register to vote"

Inspired, on the anniversary of 100 years since some women got the vote, by the suffragette mantra “deeds not words”, we have run voter registration drives and engaged with students at College and University Freshers Fairs in 40 locations across the UK, from Aberdeen to Plymouth and from Bangor to Norwich. For weeks, proving what some politicians still need explaining, that civic engagement is a prerequisite of a healthy, liberal democracy and thus a non-party political issues, student groups from Labour Students, SNP Students, Young Greens and Young Liberals have used our resources on their stalls. They have helped fellow students – one of the most under-registered groups – register to vote at the start of the academic year, whether they were Freshers or returning students unaware that you need to re-register every time to change address.

During the first two weeks in September alone, at London College Freshers Fairs, we’ve engaged around 2,000 students, aged from 16 to 65. At Kingston College I met Lydia, who had just turned 18 and was looking forward to voting for the very first time. She said it is important to send politicians a message that young people care and want to be heard. And Lucinda, who is 17, so cannot vote yet, but she made sure to register when she turned 16. She told me: “I think all young people should register and vote, to have a say in deciding their future. Don’t complain, use your voice and vote!”

A young woman standing by a banner which says "register to vote"

While most of the students I met in places like Harrow or Waltham Forest College were not registered to vote, after just a few minutes chat all realised the benefit of improving your credit score by making it on the electoral roll and thus getting that mobile phone contact or car loan they’ve been hoping for. Others did not just think of themselves, but, given the current political context, about the fact that there is no better time to make sure you have a voice and a vote when it comes to deciding your future and the future of those you care about.

But the campaign is no where done. In fact, next week, with the support of almost a dozen student organisations and youth campaigns, we are launching our autumn Democracy Week.

two boys standing by a banner which says "register to vote"

Despite all the resources that went into it, the Government’s Democracy Week during the summer holidays, 2 – 8 July, only managed to register 47,000 people. During our 10 to 17 April Democracy Week, we and our friends from Ben & Jerry’s alone engaged thousands in person and tens of thousands of people online.

Given our experience bringing democracy on College and University campuses, on the door steps in poor council estates and even in workplaces, not to mention the breath of support we have from various civil society organisations and the fact that there might even be some star appearances, we are pretty confident we can do better than that. In fact, given the uncertain times we are going through, we have to do better!

Remember: Your Future. Your Voice. Your VOTE.

Keep an eye on our social media next week 😀

If you want to get involved, join our Democracy Team!

For more details about the campaign visit our hub


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