Statistics show that a large proportion of young potential voters, have not yet registered on the Electoral Roll. Why is this the case and what solutions can be put into place to rectify this situation? The latest figures of 1.5 million Australians, who are eligible to vote, have not yet enrolled. Naturally, this is of concern as the pre election campaigning has kicked off, and political parties are desperate to secure their support.
Apathy is certainly part and parcel of many citizens’ mindset. The current level of public discourse amongst politicians, no doubt, underpins the public’s perception of Australian politics at large. In the lead up to the election, media coverage is rife with scathing remarks, poisonous barbs, grandiose promises and the like which simply does little to engage young voters. The recent misogynistic histrionics aimed at our first female Prime Minister, who was subsequently ousted from public office, also does little to encourage females to become actively involved in the Australian political scene.
The feelings of disempowerment many citizens have, may contribute to the general apathy surrounding our democratic right to vote. Our youth, often feel that their opinions will not change the world as polling day arrives, nor does a ‘civic duty’ to lodge their vote, strike a chord. Disengagement, disconnection, and a feeling that ‘all the parties are alike’ appear to resonate amongst many of today’s young Australians. Unfortunately, some of our youth, are likely to refuse to participate in one of our country’s most important democratic processes.
However, other reasons for this attitude may include a transient lifestyle, such as house sharing and temporary accommodation. Apathy may also be the result from a lack of socially interesting and relevant political issues which would otherwise galvanise citizens into voting. Perhaps the methods adopted by long term politicians, who are normally of a previous generation, are proving to be ineffective and are failing to arouse the passion of young people to vote? Often young people are thought of as ‘swinging voters’, and as such, political parties should endeavour to turn their apathy around, rekindle their passion for politics, and capture their vote.
Implementation of initiatives to engage all young voters is pivotal to turn the prevailing disinterest around and engage young people in the democratic process. The Australian Electoral Commission has taken steps to improve the intake of young voters. Akram Azimi, the recipient of the ‘Young Australian of the Year’ award, has been enlisted to assist promotion of the youth vote by publicising the aims of the Australian Electoral Commission and encourage citizens to register to vote, at various sporting events, such as, the AFL, NRL, Super Rugby and V8 Supercar sports.
Another new political group named the “Future Party” has recently been publicised in the media. The registration of this party occurred in July, and to date membership has risen to over 900 in less than one week. The age of half of the members is below thirty years of age. Two prominent issues have been prioritised by young voters, since this new party was formed. Firstly, the ability to generate personal wealth through education. Secondly, the party argues that decent living standards can be obtained via the application of science and technology, underpinning commercial interests operating through political association. Citizens slipping through the net will be minimised by the use of online policy forums, on social media sites.
The prevailing system of registering to vote is not designed to be easy, and does not help to stop the disengagement of young people in the hope of enabling the less apathetic members of society, to value our democratic process by lodging their vote. Using modern technology such as the internet and social media to ensure citizens are enrolled, will improve the percentage of new voters enrolling, as would making the actual process of voting, reflect the new technologies.
It will not be easy to encourage the youth vote, but we must persevere and reach out to people, to engage them with the political process, if we are to develop a society which is a true reflection of the aspirations of its citizens.