Voting part 1 – What to do when
Towards the end of your teenage years you hit the ages where you start having to do stuff related to voting. This can be a little scary but voting is an amazing opportunity to exercise your voice and play a role in your country. The specifics in this article relate to the UK government system so if you live elsewhere you will most likely have a different system. Being educated about your democracy (if you are lucky enough to have one) is so important so go find out about it!
Born you can show you support for a political party by paying a fee to join, for some such as the liberal democrats you can do so as a baby, while others age restriction for membership (Labour members must be over 13yrs) or party voting rights – to vote for party leaders or who should stand for MP (conservative members have to be 15 to vote within the party). Often for young people the fee to join is very small and can be as little as £1 a year. This can be a great way to get involved in your local politics before you actually get the vote.
11yrs not so big, but many high schools offer fake election opportunities so you can practise voting and get a feel for the system and campaigning. In my school, we had 6th formers represent each of the party’s and do a debate after, which we got to vote with each form group being a constituency (more on that in voting 3). If your school doesn’t do this maybe you could ask? You are likely also to have the opportunity to practise democracy via your student council.
14yrs If you live in Scotland you can register to vote at 14, this doesn’t let you actually vote but puts you on the register. If you are asked to do this by your local council and you don’t, you could be charged up to £80 unless you have a valid reason for not doing so like being in hospital. Even if you don’t want to vote you have to register.
16yrs At 16 you can register to vote in England, Wales and N.Ireland. You can’t actually vote but it puts you on the register, same as for 14 year olds in Scotland. Once again you can be fined if you don’t register when asked to. In Scotland you can vote in Scottish elections at 16 (but not british ones) so you can vote for your MSP (Member of Scottish Parliament) but not your MP (Member of Parliament)
18yrs at 18 everyone in the UK can vote in all elections. You can also stand to be an MP and PM (prime minister) although it’s a bit more complicated than just saying you want to (see my other article on voting).
Not exactly an age but: Student if you are a student living away from home you can register to vote at both your home address and your uni address. You need to declare that you are doing this on your application. This doesn’t mean you get two votes though! In National elections like the general election on 8th June 2017 you must decide where you want to vote. But in local election like for your local council or a mayor you may be able vote in both places – check with your local electoral offices as this varies.
Links if you want to know more or register to vote: https://www.gov.uk/browse/citizenship/voting
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