There is going to be much talk in this election from everyone with an opinion about voter engagement. Or rather the lack of it. Political leaders, media verb whores and assorted formers of this and that will all decry the lack of it, wring their hands forlornly and wish it wasn’t so, as if somehow they hadn’t helped create the very thing they bemoan.
It’s a bit like a condom manufacturer complaining about people having too much sex.
Part of the problem is that people have become increasingly disillusioned with the political process itself, feeling that whatever they do, it will have negligible benefit on their lives. Academic studies have conclusively proved that if a person hasn’t voted as soon as they entitled to, they are likely never to. So engage them young and make it relevant to them in ways they can understand, not have some old – to a child anyway – stuffed skirt banging on about something of no tangible consequence to them. Because, as the Jesuits would have it, if you gave them the child at seven, they’d give you the man.
Not that you’d want to give a child to a priest, certainly not now.
One way to help foster enthusiasm for the democratic process is in the choice of polling stations. A primary school that used to be opposite a house I used to live was always used as one. But what if all polling stations were situated in primary schools? I mean what child doesn’t like a day off school? As elections are usually held in late May, there’s every possibility of it being a nice day. If when an election was announced every primary school child in each constituency had to write a letter explaining why their school should be used as a polling station? And all those letters were put into a giant drum and one lucky letter was pulled out? And that primary school was one of the polling stations for that constituency?
It would make it more relevant and at the same time be used by teachers as a way in to teach about the importance of democracy, it’s benefits and why the powerful have only with great reluctance and by increments widened the franchise. Secondary school children could do the same for local elections. It’s certainly no more preposterous an idea enthusing the unenthused than some you’ll hear in the coming weeks! Because, we all of us, look to see what’s in it for us if we do something; lofty aims and social fairness are great and everything.
But what is more beneficial to a child; the vote or the school being closed