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Monday, 30 March 2015

On Bite The Ballot


I hope you've all had a lovely weekend, mine was spent catching up with old friends, playing games and going for a drive with Harry - a pretty lovely weekend as they go! Today I want to talk about something that's important to me. A campaign that I heard about for the first time last Wednesday. And one that I think is important for everyone to hear about. So please, if you have the time, I would be really grateful if you could read a little about Bite The Ballot and what I learnt from them last week.

 Last Wednesday I was lucky enough to be invited to attend an event at the US Embassy in London with Bite The Ballot founder, Mike Sani. It was a really enjoyable afternoon and a very informative talk on an organisation that I knew nothing about beforehand. Bite The Ballot are promoting a really important message that is especially pivotal in the upcoming weeks to the General Election in the UK.

In their own words, "Bite The Ballot is a not-for-profit movement that empowers young people to speak up, act, and make their votes and opinions count. We inspire young people to be counted and make informed decisions at the ballot box, encouraging them to take power and become the champions that will change the face of British politics. We are not affiliated to any political party – we think they all need to do more for the youth vote. Our core values when engaging those furthest away from politics are to be unconventional, inclusive and bold. Three words you may not associate with today’s politics."

Just two years ago, I knew next to nothing about politics. It would probably shock you a little to know how ignorant I was. And, honestly, that is the main reason why I chose politics as one of my A Levels; because I hated that I knew so little. At the risk of sounding nerdy, boy, am I glad I did. I find politics fascinating but, even if I didn't, I think it's so so important to learn about politics, to keep up with what's happening and to turn out to vote whenever you have the opportunity. Particularly as a girl, for me, it would be wrong to not vote. Less than 100 years ago, I wouldn't have had the right to vote. Suffragettes died for my right to vote and I would not only be ignorant, but, in my opinion, also ungrateful if I were not to use my vote wisely or at all. This doesn't only apply to women however, but also to many men who did not receive the vote until the very late 19th century. We are incredibly lucky to live in a democracy in the UK and so, in my view, to not exercise your right to vote is to be apathetic to how lucky you are. What's even more important than voting, however, is that you don't vote blindly. I know so many people my age who are voting for a party in the upcoming election for superficial reasons, without really thinking about what they stand for. 

This is why I was so inspired when I heard about Bite The Ballot's campaign last week. Their aim is to get as many young people to vote in this election, and future ones, as possible. They're telling you the things that other people aren't, including how to spoil your ballot if you don't want to vote for any of the political parties. This would mean that your vote would count as a protest vote and you would be counted in the number of people that turned out to vote. So many people my age are slightly oblivious to politics and, while I think that's largely down to the education system's shortcomings, I also think we all need to do a bit more to make sure we know where we stand on May 7th 2015. 

As Mike Sani pointed out in the talk, to say 'politics doesn't affect me' is a flat out lie. Politics affects everything. It affects your education, your health, how much tax you pay, how easily you'll be able to buy your first house; the list goes on and on. Therefore, to be ignorant of politics is to be ignorant of what is going to happen to you. And luckily Bite The Ballot are doing something fantastic to change this.

Bite The Ballot have developed Verto, an app that launches on the 1st April. Although it's aimed at young voters, I think it will be accessible and useful to voters of all ages. The video above explains what the app does but here's a little more information from the website:

"It’s time for a voter matching tool fit for the 21st Century voter. Bite The Ballot and Demos have built one. It’s called Verto. ‘Verto’ means to change, to turn, to overthrow (in Latin). It’s also an anagram of ‘voter’. Each letter of the word means something: 

  • ‘V’ – this is about your vote 
  • ‘E’ – is for education – Verto aims to make the connection that the issues you care about are political 
  • ‘R’ – is for ensuring you are registered to vote ‘
  • T’ and ‘O’ – this is about empowering you to use your vote, and turnout."

Verto essentially helps you find out which political party you're most aligned with, as well as telling you who the candidates are in your constituency. To some, this may seem like a mere baby step. And maybe it is, but it's a start. Ultimately what I want to get across is that, if you're living in the UK, there's a general election in just over a month. If you're eligible to vote, I urge you to use that vote and to make an educated vote. Even if that means spoiling your ballot, that is so much better than not turning out to vote at all. And please give Verto a try in a couple of days - it looks great!

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