This is why politicians don’t really need to care about the opinions of young people
Often the youth of our society are referred to as irresponsible. What really frustrates me about this is that in some instances we actually measure up to the title.
A few weeks ago Prime Minister John Key announced the date of our general election as 20th September 2014. In just under six months we will all be heading to the polls so we can tick a box and choose New Zealand’s government for the next three years. The problem is, not everyone will take part in this process.
In the 2008 election, a significant number of eligible young people didn’t vote. In fact, almost four out of every ten 18-24 year olds (39.9%) failed to turn up to a voting booth. In the last election, that number rose to 41.8%. That’s worryingly close to half of my peer group silencing their own democratic voice.
Compare this with my parents’ age group. Nine out every ten (90.1%) 45-64 year olds turned up and made their political opinions count in 2008, and even in the record low turnout of the 2011 election, only 13.3% of this age group stayed away. 13.3% compared to the 41.8% of my peers who didn’t think it was worth the effort.
It seems my age group is blind to the importance of their vote. The Government could be forgiven for not taking our opinions seriously, and we have no one but ourselves to blame.
Free and transparent engagement in the democratic process is a right and a privilege that distinguishes us from dictatorships like Libya and Iraq. It is a right that people around the world have given their lives for time and again.
Elections are a time where the people of a nation can hold their leaders to account. But if we aren’t voting, then who are our leaders answering to?
For democracy to work we must stand up and be counted. Every vote does make a difference. Every voice does matter. But in order to be heard we do need to speak.
When the 20th September comes around in a few months’ time we have two options. We can be irresponsible and choose to stay at home, or we can make the most of this privilege and have our voices heard. I would urge you to do the latter.
Danielle is currently on an internship placement with Maxim Institute.