Friday, 18 April 2014

Young voters prepare for referendum

Young people in North Ayrshire have been given an insight into the world of politics ahead of the Independence Referendum later this year.

A total of 1,800 pupils took part in a series of workshops, which were held at all secondary schools in the area. The hour-long ‘Your Vote, Your Voice’ sessions were organised by the Youth Services team from North Ayrshire Council.

The Independence Referendum on September 18th will be the first time that people aged 16 and 17 will be eligible to vote.

The school workshops, which involved groups of S4, S5 and S6 pupils, required the participants to act out election scenarios. The young people had to create their own political party, decide on the kind of politician to lead them and then agree on the policies they believed would address the needs of their local community. In addition, pupils had to produce a Party Political Broadcast to sell their party’s ideas and ideals before the virtual election itself.

The workshops were organised in conjunction with the Ayrshire Valuation Joint Board, which carries out electoral registration on behalf of the three Ayrshire local authorities. Great emphasis was placed on the need to register to vote so that as many young people and new voters as possible are engaged in the democratic process.

North Ayrshire Council’s Chief Executive, Elma Murray, is also the area’s Electoral Returning Officer and will oversee the Independence Referendum. Ms Murray said, “Today’s young people will have a greater opportunity than ever to shape their country’s future. For the first time, young people under the age of 18 will be able to vote. This will encourage youngsters to feel connected with society and show them that they, and their opinions, are valued.

“It is important we do not simply hand over voting rights to 16 and 17 year olds without equipping them with the information that will allow them to play a meaningful part in the referendum.

“I am pleased this exercise will have introduced young people to a good voting habit at an early age. It will also have encouraged them to learn more about the voting process and to understand how vital their contribution is to the outcome.”

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