Action needed to boost youth turnout

September 12, 2006 12:00 AM

Jenny Willott, Welsh Liberal Democrat MP for Cardiff Central, is writing to every Returning Officer in Wales to ask them how they plan to encourage young people in Wales to vote in the forthcoming Assembly elections next May.

Commenting, Jenny said:

"At the last Assembly elections, turnout amongst people aged 18 to 25 was just 16% - the lowest turnout ever by young people in Europe. Compare this to Sweden where turnout by young people is around 85%.

"The low Welsh turnout reflects a growing trend across the UK, as young people increasingly turn away from mainstream politics. With figures this low, this is a democratic disaster in the making.

"I don't agree with people who say that young people aren't interested in politics. On the contrary, in my experience, young people are extremely interested and knowledgeable about a range of important issues, from poverty to climate change to foreign policy. But they feel disengaged and disillusioned with the current system and political culture.

"We need to demonstrate how these issues are relevant at every level of politics and show that young people can have a huge influence in how these issues are tackled.

"Officially, it is now the responsibility of Returning Officers to encourage people to participate in elections, following the Electoral Administration Act that has recently come into force.

"But it is also the duty of political parties to ensure that they are communicating with young people and finding new ways to get people interested in the issues. The Welsh Liberal Democrats plan to do exactly this and we will be producing a series of proposals on how to engage young people with politics and encourage them to vote next May."

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