The Democracy Challenge: Young people and voter registration.
In May 2009, at the height of the MP’s expenses row, the then Prime Minister Gordon Brown (Brown 2009) talked about the need for “major constitutional reform‟ which included “the case for votes at 16‟. In March 2009 one of his cabinet colleagues, Ed Miliband, (Scottish Labour 2009) went even further
In Scotland the rhetoric of British Parliamentarians has been put into practice by the Scottish Parliament. The passing of the Health Boards (Membership and Elections) Bill and the introduction of a new model scheme for Community Councils in April 2009 will mean that 16 and 17 year olds will be able to stand for and vote in elections to these bodies.
Whilst this extension of the opportunities young people have to engage with the electoral process should be welcomed, it does present a fundamental challenge. However I would suggest that this challenge also presents an exciting opportunity for community educators.The challenge concerns the wider context of young people’s apparent disengagement from the political process. Specifically, a key prerequisite for young people’s active involvement in this electoral process is their inclusion on the electoral register, yet young people as a group, are amongst the least likely to be on the electoral register or to engage with formal political processes. However this context also presents community educators with increased opportunities and motivation to work with young people so they can fully understand and engage with this extension of the electoral process. Therefore learning for and about democracy should be an increased priority for community educators who work with young people, particularly with 16 and 17 year olds.
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