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The Power of Voting

You can't escape the election. Every time you turn on the television, the radio, or an online publication, you get slammed with the latest gossip about the running MPs, the incumbent Prime Minister or a front lining Prime Minister candidate.

It can feel overwhelming, and in some cases, depressing.

I wonder if anyone accurately represents my beliefs. Can anyone can represent my best interests and move this country forwards? Are politics in the UK broken?

From conversations I have had with peers, I’m not the only one feeling like this.

Many people feel disenfranchised. They feel as though none of the parties speak to them, and none of the parties reflect their values. If they do identify with a party, it tends to be a marginal one that doesn't have a chance of taking a majority, and so it can feel hopeless. After all, what’s the point of voting if nothing changes?

Hopelessness is the biggest danger in this general election. When you feel like you can't change the system, you just stop caring. That translates to low voter turnout. This is particularly true of youth, a segment of the population that typically has much lower turnout rates than older generations. When youth turnout is low though, the political system in the UK (first past the post) does not reflect the views and needs of a large portion of the population.

A frequent critique, other than not feeling represented by politicians, is that one vote doesn’t matter. This mentality is a vicious cycle. Every vote does make a difference, as it is part of a collective action. When masses of youth don’t vote, they are not represented by the political system and feel more disenfranchised, hence less likely to vote again.

This election is too important not to vote in. Other than Brexit, which has been overwhelmingly the focus of British politics for the last three years, there are many issues at stake from the future of the NHS to climate change legislation. The government's response to these key issues will lay the foundation for many years to come, and will severely impact people in their 20s.

To combat low voter turnout, we recently launched a campaign to illustrate the different motivations behind voting. The campaign, simply called "Why Vote", encourages youth to take photographs of themselves with a sign that says "I Vote Because..." The goal? Putting a human face to voting and helping individuals realise their own power through their vote.

The results speak for themselves in terms of the diversity of thought and perspective, but also reflect a unity in the drivers behind voting.

Many people are voting to participate in civic society and to protect their futures.

Others are voting out of a sense of appreciation and obligation of our privilege to vote.

Some voting comes out of a place of frustrations of the existing political system and the need to influence politics through active citizenship.

The beauty of this campaign is that it isn't limited to the United Kingdom. Voter participation is an issue that plagues most countries far and wide. We have seen submissions from the United States all the way to San Jose in Costa Rica.

Seeing these images come through this campaign has been oddly comforting. I feel a sense of understanding and connection with each person who has taken a photograph. I can understand and relate to each perspective, and I feel hopeful we can change the system if we all participate in it.

Voting isn't easy, and it's difficult when you feel like no party represents you. It certainly would be easier to avoid voting and get on with daily life. But if we want things to change, we have to do something about it. We have a duty to voice our opinions to help guided officials make the best choices possible. If we don't engage, we can't expect politicians to represent us.

The road ahead is tough. Every candidate has positive attributes and negative attributes. There are no easy answers, which makes decision-making difficult. But it’s not impossible. It’s on each and every one of us to do our homework and make the best choice we can.

Every single vote matters – use yours wisely. And remember, you are not alone. We are all united in our desire for a better future. When we all participate, we shape that future.

By Eleni Polychroniadou, London Global Shaper

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