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Increasing young voter registration – Bite The Ballot’s youth-led democracy movement lights the touch paper

Sawsan Bastawy, Bite the Bullet’s Grassroots Co-ordinator and a former Community Engagement Officer in Birmingham, blogs about this week’s National Voter Registration campaign to increase young voter registration.

 

Three years ago, Bite The Ballot (BTB) launched National Voter Registration Drive (NVRD), a campaign to get as many young people on the electoral register as possible in a single week of co-ordinated national action. During BTB’s NVRD 2015 campaign, we put 441,000 people on the electoral register, breaking the record previously held by (US campaign) Rock The Vote, and making history. This week marks the third annual NVRD, and it is bigger and more impactful than ever.

 

Founded in a classroom in 2010, BTB is a party-neutral movement on a mission to engage, inform, and inspire citizens age 16-25 to register to vote and stake a claim in society, sparking a journey of active citizenship among a generation and ultimately leading to a more just society and a stronger democracy.

 

By developing and delivering resources to younger citizens in classrooms, campuses, community centres, faith centres, youth clubs, public spaces and online platforms, BTB has engaged and registered millions of people in the UK. From our acclaimed interactive democracy workshop, ‘The Basics’, to our popular voter advice application, Verto, BTB has been breaking ground as it innovates and delivers resources created by young people for young people with the ambition of making sure that every citizen believes that their opinions matter and that expressing them counts.

 

BTB knows that engaging young people in democratic participation is vital to a healthy and diverse democracy. With 800,000 people reported to have fallen off the electoral register due to changes to the voter registration system in June 2014, our democracy is neither strong nor representative. This is why campaigns like NVRD are vital.

 

Between 1-7 February thousands of people around the UK will join BTB and engage young people and marginalised communities in voter registration activities, from workshops and registration drives to discussions with decision makers and film screenings.

 

For instance, in the Black Country, our Community Engagement Officer (CEO), Jessica, will be engaging people across Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton, running workshops in sixth form colleges and holding voter registration drives in public spaces like local libraries. She is one of seven inspiring young CEOs around the country who are running peer to peer engagement activities and empowering people in their areas to express their opinions and participate in democracy.

 

“As a Community Engagement Officer, I see it as my role to build and facilitate relationships between those living/working in community groups (be it schools, youth groups, support groups) and local decision makers” says Jessica.

 

“Whilst voter registration is at the heart of the work I do, what is important to me is trying to  create cohesion and continuity in my community partnerships. By delivering Bite The Ballot’s interactive democracy workshop ‘The Basics’, I hope to establish a platform where communities then keep me in mind for further engagement/awareness work, particularly in the coming months with local and PCC elections and the impending EU referendum.

 

“The National Voter Registration Drive has been a platform for me to cement the relationships I have built so far by running events throughout the week alongside community partners as well as targeting new actors and creating new links. During campaigns week, events ranging from voter registration rallies and student union democracy races to ‘The Basics’ and ‘Make a Manifesto’ are part of the Black Country’s push to generate discussions about politics and inspire citizens to register to vote.”

 

The National Voter Registration Drive is taking place nationwide between 1-7 February 2016. Find out more about Bite The Ballot on its website: bitetheballot.co.uk  and go to the NVRD website to find out more about NVRD.  

 

Contact Jessica by email [email protected]