Leo Harverson – who has been pivotal in gathering momentum for voter registrations on the Isle of Wight – shares how the first day went. Ed
Here’s a challenging statement:
“Getting people registered to vote is of greater importance than whether people actually vote once they are registered.”
On Saturday I voluntarily spent time encouraging and assisting Island people to get registered.
It was an interesting experience – more on that in a moment – but firstly, here are some of the reasons that motivated me to do it:
- In simple terms, if people are registered they are more likely to vote, and at least able to do so.
- At present each party or candidate fights over a limited number of those who are registered and already vote. The incentive for the parties is to try and win over people who vote for their rivals – it means a vote is gained for one party at the expense of a vote for their rival. So new names on the electoral register gives candidates and parties greater reason to ensure they have a broader appeal, rather than fighting over the same old faces.
- It may seem obvious, but the number of people who turn out to vote is used to calculate election results. Turnout is only an effective measure if it reflects the number of those who are eligible to be registered, not just those who are. If there are people who are not included, the concept of turnout is somewhat irrelevant.
Back to yesterday
Overall, the people I spoke with are already registered. However I helped two people register (one for the first time), and I provided a direct link for several others to register themselves. I also passed on registration information for someone who has no fixed abode.
Both of those I directly helped to register were male and under 35 years old (one was about to turn 18 shortly before the forthcoming election). These two cases are highly significant because the majority of those who said they weren’t registered (and didn’t want to register) were male and under 35 years old.
“Political parties were to be trusted”
Several people told me that they were not registered to vote because they did not feel any of the political parties were to be trusted.
They saw their lack of registration as protest, not apathy. Worse still, some people told me they felt the parties weren’t interested in them as individuals.
The distinct feeling I had from my experience on Saturday was that if people are not registered, the parties and candidates have no reason to bother trying. They too are apathetic.
Engaging people isn’t hard
If I could emphasise one thing I learned it would be this: Engaging people isn’t hard – I can do it.
Challenge yourself to find someone who isn’t registered and help him or her to do it.