During online discussions concerning the #YALIVotes campaign, many Network members said they have witnessed bad election practices such as selling your vote and general apathy, especially among young people. Could the absence of effective voter education be contributing to both of these?
Good voter education has components that might seem obvious to you, but they may not be obvious to someone who has never voted before or who is reluctant to participate.
How do I vote?
Imagine how frustrating it would be to wait in a long line only to find out that you were at the wrong polling place, hadn’t registered correctly or didn’t have the right documents. Or what if some other logistical problem prevented you from exercising your right to vote? Learn and share this kind of information as widely as possible. It can help prevent unwanted surprises that might cause someone to choose not to participate the next time. Here is a great example from South Africa’s 2014 elections. It includes information on how to make sure you are registered, where your polling station is, and how to vote absentee.
What is at stake?
Everyone has issues that are a priority to them. For many young people, better job prospects are at the top. Others are mostly concerned about getting a good and affordable education. The media has always played the primary role in informing the public about the candidates and the issues at stake. Check out the website AllAfrica.com, which is is an online news aggregator that collects information by country and by topic. There are also international organizations like the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) that may be able to help you find out more.
Why should I vote?
Many young people stay away from elections because they think their vote makes no difference or they do not appreciate that voting is a civic duty owed not just to themselves but to their fellow citizens. There are many available sources online that teach how and why voting is important. But here’s a way you, personally, can play an integral role.
First, take the YALI Network Online Course on “Understanding Elections and Civic Responsibility.” The three-part course covers the role of citizens in the electoral process, how to exercise civic responsibility, and how to hold officials accountable. Then, after you’ve earned your certificate, share with others what you’ve learned through hosting a #YALILearns event!
The views and opinions expressed here belong to the author or interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of the YALI Network or the U.S. government.