One of the most important issues facing the youth of the world is their participation in the democratic institutions that govern every aspect of their lives. There is an unfair derogatory criticism from older generations that youth generations are somehow “not interested” in their rights or participating in democracy; as if we are more concerned with instagraming pictures of the perfect avocado or some other ridiculous derogatory stereotype of the Millenial and Gen-Z generations. The fact is though Millennials and Gen-Z are far more aware of social injustices and international affairs then any of their contemporary generations.
However, with democracy in recession in some parts of the world and the rise of populist far-right governments across the world it is now more important than ever that the youth generations are loud vocal advocates
for their rights and their opinions.
As we have seen in the U.K. with Brexit, the youth generations have mobilised themselves on the internet in the forms of petitions, and on the streets such as the People’s March of the 23rd March 2019. These efforts have been very good at getting youth in participating in the democratic process. The area that has traditionally suffered, and no doubt is the cause of the criticism from the Baby Boom generation, is youth turnout at the ballot box. Low turnout from youth generations at the ballot box for elections is blamed as one of the causes for rising levels of populist and far-right movements; or in the case of Brexit, for policy decisions being forced on youth generations that they did not want. As a Millennial myself who voted in the referendum I find this insulting. There are plenty of Millennials and Gen-Z who vote; the problem is not the youth generations; the problem is with the organisational structures of some democracies. Taking the United Kingdom as an example, the UK has a First-past-the-post voting system for local and national elections that disenfranchises the electorate, with so called “Safe seats” meaning that the incumbent candidate of parliament doesn’t really have to worry about campaigning because the result is such a foregone conclusion. Frequently, at general elections long queues at voting stations have meant some people not being able to vote at all even if they have been standing in line for hours. This does not encourage voter turnout. When it came to the referendum on exiting the EU back in 2016 there were many who opted for a postal vote. Reports of numerous people not getting their postal votes on time (if at all) are deeply troubling, especially with the referendum result being as close as it was. These are just some of the factors that turn off people from participating in democracy, at least in the UK, and not just the youth generations.
The UK has many systemic problems with its democracy, but one major way of improving voter turnout would be to encourage the implementation of e-voting. This has already been implemented in Estonia with tremendous success. Switching democracies to e-voting will not only encourage participation by eliminating waiting times at voting stations, it also helps to bring the democratic process into the modern age and it can be done successfully and securely.
The youth generations are the most aware regarding social justice and political issues, more aware arguably than previous generations. The youth generations wish to participate in democracy, so let them!