COLLEGE students in South Tyneside are staging a mock general election with a twist in order to encourage fellow learners to register to vote.
South Tyneside College has formed two rival “parties” with manifestos to put to their learner electorate so people understand the power of the ballot box.
It’s really important that people vote – one vote actually matters and can change the world.Masuda Rahman, Student Union present
But unlike the real general election, tomorrow’s event will be non-political and a fun way to get 18 to 24-year-olds involved in the election process.
Votes will be cast on iPads instead of the usual slips of paper, and each party, which has four members drawn from the college’s eight-strong Students’ Union executive, will be seeking support for their agendas.
Student Union president Masuda Rahman, 18, said: “It’s really important that people vote – one vote actually matters and can change the world.
“For a lot of our students, this is the first year they can vote, and they should take that responsibility very seriously and not leave it to others.
“At the moment it seems like none of the political parties has any policies that are really aimed at people of my age – it’s all for the older generations.
“I think the problem is that they know that lots of young people don’t bother to vote, and see no benefit in having policies directly for us – that can only change by us going out and voting.
“This project will revolve around smaller, fun issues to give students a taste of the voting process and hopefully inspire them to register to vote for the general election.”
Figures show only 44 per cent of that age group voted in the 2010 general election, compared to 80 per cent of the over 65s.
Issues such as the economy, defence and NHS will be shunned for matters of importance to daily college life.
The initiative is being supported by South Tyneside Council’s democratic services department, which has been holding project planning workshops with the students.
Democratic services staff will also be at the college from 10am to 7pm on the day of the event, in the hope that members of the public who have not yet registered to vote will do so.
Coun Alan Kerr, deputy leader of the council, with responsibility for democratic renewal at South Tyneside Council, said: “It’s wonderful to see college students helping to spread the word about the importance of voting among young people.
“Government affects every single person, no matter what their age or walk of life, so having young people championing voting among their own age group is a great way to help our younger generation to understand their role in the elections process.”