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Your guide to voting in the General Election

With the General Election almost upon us, you might be wondering how to vote, whether you should vote and who to vote for. This short guide by Phil Burton-Cartledge, Course Director of Law and Social Sciences, is not going to make your mind up for you but will hopefully help you come to an informed decision on 12 December.

By Dr Phil Burton-Cartledge - 10 December 2019

How to vote

First of all, you do need to be registered. The deadline for this was midnight on 26 November so, if you have not, unfortunately you will not be able to vote on Thursday. If you are, you should have received a polling card with your name and address and the location of your local polling station. If you have not received one or have since lost it, do no worry. You can go and vote without presenting a card. I would recommend taking some identification just in case you are asked for proof of address.

After the polling clerk in the station has crossed you off the list, they will hand you a ballot paper with a list of candidates and point you over to the booths. You put a cross next to the candidate of your choice and pop it in the ballot box, and that's it.

There might be activists from different parties outside who'll ask you about how you voted, or whether they can cross you off their lists. It's up to you whether you decide to speak to them. Remember, voting hours are 7am to 10pm. Do make sure you get there in plenty of time because you will be turned away if you leave it too late.

Why vote?

That's the how, but why should you vote? It's quite simple. According to recent polling by ComRes from late November, 79% of 55-64s and 78% of 65+s are planning on voting, while only 60% of those in the 18-24 age bracket are planning on doing so. And recent elections find a similar pattern.

According to YouGov, at the 2017 General Election, 77% of 60-69 year olds and 84% of 70+ voters turned out, versus 57% of 18-19s and 59% of 20-24s.

Arguably one of the reasons why political parties in the recent past did not take issues that primarily affect younger people seriously is because there was little electoral incentive for them to do so. Effectively, democracy in Britain is the old determining the young's access to education, social security, careers, housing, how seriously the climate emergency should be taken, and what shape Brexit should take.

All are good reasons for why young people should vote. You, after all, are going to be the ones who live with the consequences of this election for the longest.

Who for?

What if you don't know who to vote for? One common refrain found among younger people is they don't feel educated enough to make an informed decision.

Having campaigned and spoken to thousands of voters over the years in my own capacity as a party activist, I can assure you that people who blame minority ethnicities, women, the LGBTQ community, or "foreigners" for the country's problems are not so restrained.

It's also easy to find out information about the parties. Every main party has published its list of pledges and vision for the next four or five years in their manifesto:

Do a little research

All the party leaders and plenty of activists are on social media, and often use their respective platforms to promote policy, criticisms of other parties, memes and so on. And don't feel afraid of asking your friends, your co-workers, and your fellow students their opinions to help make up your mind. If you're still unsure, think about what issue or issues you care about the most and research the different party positions on that basis. A bit of search engine wizardry will reveal what the parties think.

Which party runs the government affects all aspects of your life, so voting is important. But who best reflects your concerns and priorities is up to you - so join me and millions of others in the polling station on 12 December to determine what the next four or five years are going to look like. Because, if you don't, someone else will.

About the author

Dr Phil Burton-Cartledge
Course Director, Business, Law, and Social Sciences

Dr Phil Burton-Cartledge is Course Director for the School of Law and Social Sciences and Programme Lead for Sociology. Prior to joining the University in 2013, he previously had worked for a Member of Parliament. A regular commentator on current affairs, his teaching and research interests reflect these concerns.

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