Tooting MP Sadiq Khan joined youth engagement project, Bite the Ballot, at Chestnut Grove Academy, Balham, to launch Labour’s electoral registration drives in schools and colleges to address the poor electoral participation among young voters.
At the 2010 General Election only 44% of those aged 18-24 years voted, compared with 76% of those over the age of 65. And only half of young people are currently registered to vote.
This latest announcement would mean that schools and colleges would be obliged to supply details of 16 and 17 year old students to electoral registration officers, and is part of a package of policies aimed at getting more young people voting. This includes lowering the voting age to 16 and having ballot boxes in schools.
As part of his visit, Sadiq joined in with local sixth form students as they took part in tasks set by Bite the Ballot, such as debating controversial issues such as the death penalty. The students also had a go at managing their own budget as a Government. Sadiq spoke to students about the importance of registering to vote and being part of the democratic process, and finished by answering students’ questions with a short Q&A.
Sadiq regularly visits local schools such as Chestnut Grove, Graveney, Ernest Bevin and Burntwood to encourage more young people to get involved in politics, and recently hosted a young voters reception in Parliament to allow students to speak candidly about the issues that matter to them.
UK citizens can sign up to the Electoral Register from the age of 16 – all you need to do is contact your local council or visit http://www.aboutmyvote.co.uk
Sadiq Khan MP said:
“I was really impressed by the level of involvement from the Chestnut Grove students in Bite the Ballot’s activities. It was good to see students offering such a variety of opinions on big issues and being so willing to debate and justify them.
“One thing is clear from my many visits to schools in Wandsworth; our young people do have an opinion on how our country is governed and do want their voices to be heard, but sadly too many of them are not registered to vote. If we can’t even get them registered, then it makes the task of getting them to take part in the democratic process even more daunting.
“I believe the changes I have announced would help to make a real difference and begin to give young people a platform to have their voices heard.”
Mike Sani, Founder of Bite the Ballot, said:
"Our session of 'The Basics' at Chestnut Grove Academy shows the power of directly engaging with young people. The sixth-formers proved, in front of their local MP, that they're passionate about issues, are prepared to engage in democracy, and crucially, are votes worth winning. At the start of the session only 3 out of 30 were registered to vote, and by the end they all accepted the invitation to register. We hope that more politicians take up the opportunity to spark honest debate with their young constituents - and that more young voters take power by holding them to account at the ballot box.”