In case you hadn’t noticed, Britain goes to the polls later this month. On Thursday 22 May there will be UK wide elections to the European Parliament plus local council elections in Northern Ireland and in many parts of England. But how many of the electorate will actually bother to vote?
Turnout has been low in recent years. Only 34.7 per cent of voters cast their ballot at the 2009 European Elections, while turnout at the 2012 local council elections in England was just 31.3 per cent. With recent history suggests that two out of three people won’t vote, how can we persuade people to exercise their democratic rights?
In recent years the Electoral Commission has worked with local authorities to try and find ways to increase voter turnout. Many areas now offer residents the opportunity to participate in postal voting, although there have been some concerns that this could be open to electoral fraud.
In the USA music stars such as The Ramones, Christina Aguilera and Madonna have given their support to the Rock the Vote campaign which has had considerable success in engaging young people with the political process. The campaign has been copied in other countries, including Canada, Chile and India.
I’m not too surprised that we haven’t had an equivalent of Rock the Vote here in Britain – I can’t imagine too many people being persuaded to vote by the likes of Mumford & Sons or Gary Barlow. Instead we’ve had celebrities such as Russell Brand telling us that he can see no point in voting. Ultimately it’s down to the political parties to persuade the electorate that voting really is worthwhile, otherwise more and more of us might think that Russell Brand is right.