Oh hey guys. We’re taking a brief break in my adventures on the way to health, happiness and general gorgeousness for a very important update. You have a little over two weeks to get yourself on the electoral register for this year’s general election.
Before you roll your eyes and close this page down, please, hear me out.
Yes it is. But even if you have priorities other than seducing geeky politics graduates, you should still use your vote. Here’s why…
Why should I vote?
I don’t know about you guys, but I am basically over cynicism and apathy being fashionable. I said this in my self-care post, but it’s worth saying again: cynicism is just a way of pretending to be smarter than everyone without actually putting in the effort to get smart. In my book, taking an active interest in the world around you and giving a damn about your fellow humans is pretty cool. I know that politics is really messed up. And I know that it’s tempting to respond to alienation by shrugging and saying “Well, what’s the point in even taking part? None of these people represent me.”
Here’s why that’s a rubbish idea.
Politicians mainly care about getting votes. I know they like to appear on TV saying that they care about the country and the NHS and the old people and the students and all that, and some of them even do, but mainly, they care about being elected. So politicians like to take care of the groups who vote. It’s why even the most heartless parties like to look out for the elderly. Because if they don’t, the elderly will take their vote elsewhere. By not voting, you are basically giving the politicians free reign to stomp all over you. They have no incentive to please you, because it’s not like they’re going to lose votes by screwing you over. If every 18-25 year old in the country had come out to vote in the last general election, do you think they would have dared to raise tuition fees? If every single person belonging to an ethnic minority group had come out to vote, do you think the mainstream parties would be going anywhere near UKIP? The people who vote are the people who write the agenda. I don’t care who you vote for. I don’t even care if you go into the ballot box and draw genitalia all over your paper. All that matters is that when they look at the stats, they see that you registered, and you showed up. The parties might not represent you. They might all be basically the same. But that is exactly why it is so damn important that you use your vote. Because voting and using your political voice is the only thing that will make the politicians sit up and notice.
Okay, how do I get on the electoral register?
I’m so glad you asked, dear reader! The easiest way to register is online here: https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote
The process takes about five minutes and you’ll need your National Insurance number. This link is for people living in England, Scotland and Wales, but if you’re in Northern Ireland, just scroll to the bottom of the page for a link to your form.
If you’re posting your registration forms, make sure to give them plenty of time to arrive in time for the 20th April deadline.
What happens next?
Once you have been registered, you will receive a polling card in the post. This will show all your details, and tell you where your polling station is. It is handy to take your polling card with you to the polling station but if you lose it, don’t worry, you can still vote without it (you silly sausage). If you don’t receive your polling card or can’t remember where you are supposed to be voting, get in touch with your local Electoral Registration Office.
What happens when I go along to vote?
Polling stations are usually public buildings like schools, town halls or churches. They will be open from 7am to 10pm on election day and you can go along and vote at any time throughout the day. Election day this year is 7th May.
When you get to the station, you need to check in with the staff inside. You can either give them your polling card or tell them your full name and address. They will give you a polling card and show you to your polling booth. You enter the polling booth on your own, and aren’t allowed to take any photographs inside (save the selfies for afterwards).
The general election is decided by a first past the post system, so you can only vote for one candidate. You will be voting for a person to be your local MP, so the ballot paper will have the candidate’s name in large letters and the party they represent underneath. Mark your desired candidate with a cross in the box opposite. Make sure this is the only mark on your ballot paper, or your vote might be discounted. Fold your ballot paper once and post it in the ballot box.
Now go buy yourself a pint and congratulate yourself on your excellent political participation.
If you’re going to be out of the country on polling day, you can find out about postal and proxy votes here: https://www.gov.uk/browse/citizenship/voting
Deadline to get on the electoral register: 20th April
Deadline to apply for postal votes: 21st April
Deadline to apply for proxy votes: 28th April
Election day! 7th May