Written by Lily Beckett
Being tasked with the organisation of my sixth form’s mock election, due to run alongside the General Election campaign this May, has compelled me to consider how and why this will benefit the young people taking part. I have devised five main reasons why I believe mock elections should be organised in every school and college this Spring.
- A mock election informs young people about what’s going on in their country, diminishing the ‘not bothered’ attitude many students have towards current affairs. There is no doubt that the General Election in May will affect all of our lives, both young and old, so every effort should be made to educate young people about its importance, but in an engaging way. By running assemblies and campaigning to gain ‘party votes’, students have little choice but to pay some attention to what is going on around them, and to the policies which could affect them. Even if a student is not directly involved in the organisation of their mock election, such as by being a party representative or speechwriter, the minimum effort required is their vote. This in itself encourages a young person to consider their decision and why they may vote for one party over another.
- A mock election gets more students interested in politics by creating an environment where an interest in politics is encouraged, or even rewarded through the success of their party. This appeals to young peoples’ competitive spirits, and sets them up to pay more attention to conversations which may involve topics which would have previously alienated them. Nurturing a political interest in the young by giving them opportunities to take part in mock debates, campaigning, polling organisation, speech writing and much more could inspire students to consider careers which they may not have previously realised existed. As a result of their involvement in a mock election, they may be motivated to become a future MP or aim towards becoming an expert in a related field such as journalism or public relations. The possibilities of sowing the first seeds of serious thought in a body of young people regarding their own futures are very real.
- A mock election should encourage people to vote when they actually become enfranchised (granted the right to vote at age 18). A mock election educates and enlightens young people about how their democratic society operates by voting for the party which best represents their interests. In 2010 less than 45% of people aged 18-25 were voting. This suggests that young people are not making the effort in getting their voices heard, which may result in a lack of focus by political parties on policies affecting the young as they cannot guarantee that they will even vote. If more people vote, the party which comes into power is much more democratically legitimate as they represent the interests of the majority of Britain. Politicians are more likely to pay attention to the needs and wants of the young if they are more consciously aware and involved in politics. As well as this, by voting we (women especially) give a nod towards who fought for the basic right to vote – some Suffragettes even gave their lives trying to secure the vote for women. Even now, many countries do not allow their people to elect the governing body which will make decisions on their behalf. Therefore we must utilise our democracy to make our voices count as others are not so lucky.
- A mock election familiarises young people with voting practices which will be relevant when they begin voting for real. Taking students through the election process alongside the actual General Election campaign will make sense of certain terms which will be heard on television or seen in the newspapers. This again works to make the whole event totally accessible for young people and providing them with the confidence to take part in conversations concerning the election. By educating students on the policy of ‘first past the post’ in regards to their own voting at school, they will understand and be able to transfer this information into its real life setting. Other terms which may be alien to some young people such as ‘coalitions’ and how they are formed or what a majority vote entails will be made clear through the process of the mock election. By demystifying the principle structure of how a General Election works makes the potentially daunting idea of having to vote in the future accessible and simple.
- A mock election provides young people with skills they can use in the future. The nature of organising a mock election calls for a wide range of talents from public speaking to graphic design. By allocating roles to students dependent on their interests or skills, they can build their repertoire in whichever field they particularly shine at. Indeed, on the flipside, roles could be allocated to students who have had no previous experience in the task in hand to give them the opportunity to tackle something they may not have tried before. Whatever skill they develop by taking part in the mock election, there is a good chance that this skill will be transferable to a number of future scenarios or professions, not just in government jobs. Speech-writing could develop a student’s eloquence and written rhetoric; they could learn how to structure a persuasive piece of writing – relevant to careers such as marketing or sales. Public speaking is another extremely valuable talent, transferable to any situation where one has to stand up and speak to a group of people, on a large or small scale. The point is, the result of a mock election would not just leave a student politically aware; they could also take away from the experience new skills which could potentially be written on their CV or UCAS form if anything.
By devising these five reasons why a mock election is a really beneficial thing to hold in a school or college has convinced me that my efforts in organising my own sixth form’s mock election are not going to waste. The reason which stands out for me most is the importance of breaking down the disillusionment young people face when considering involvement in politics. By destroying the invisible barrier separating so many youths from having a say in how their own country is run, this will result in increased votes from the 18 to 25 age group, hopefully increasing the percentage of voters in that category beyond 45% to a much higher proportion. More young people voting will mean the more consideration politicians will give in regards to implementing policies which will directly affect our lives.