Bite the Ballot and getting young people engaged in democracy

I spend Monday morning with a group of students (aged 15 to 17 years old) from Newquay’s Treviglas School discussing democracy and why voting is important. This discussion was part of Bite the Ballot’s campaign to get young people involved in democracy.

Bite the Ballot, is a not-for-profit organisation that empowers young people to speak up, act, and make their votes and opinions count. For four years, Bite The Ballot (BTB) has been running interactive democracy workshops with young people up and down the country, demonstrating the power they hold as individuals and as a collective voice. BTB aims to inspire young people to be counted and make informed decisions at the ballot box, encouraging them to #TakePower and become the champions that will change the face of British politics.

In the 2010 elections, over 75% of people aged 65+ voted. This group received free bus travel, free TV license, free prescriptions, winter fuel allowance to name but a few. Compare this to only 44% of young people voted. They had EMA taken away, tuition frees tripled and youth services are under huge pressures and reductions. Is this related? Yes, it is. If young people were more engaged and had the ability to vote, then maybe the services young people value would be on a more even footing.

During the visit, there was a series of group activities. This first one was deciding where you would spend a ‘government budget’ of £100. The choices were education, health, defence, welfare and benefits, housing and environment, transport, public order and safety, culture and sport and international aid.

It wouldn’t surprise you to see education and health coming out on top. Defence came seconded to bottom and that did not really surprise me. However, international aid came bottom, and when I asked why, the student group said we should make sure our services are sorted first. It was very interesting to hear their logic on the other areas too. The students really had good points to make.

I am very keen to support Bite the Ballot’s campaign to encourage young people to get involved and make sure their voice is heard. Winston Churchill once said “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.” We should also remember those who gave their lives to ensure that we are free to vote as we wish, it is important that we take on that responsibility and encourage others to make sure their voice is heard.

Young people can register to vote from the age of 16. My view is if you can register to vote at 16, then you should be able to vote at 16. The Scottish Referendum has shown how well the 16/17 old vote works, and I hope the Government brings in legislation to lower the voting age.

IMG_4616.JPGTo find out more about BTB online presence go to HERE

BTB also wants to hear from schools, colleges, youth clubs or universities who are interested in getting BTB to come along and run a session on “The Basics”. If you are interested, email BTB at and help us in the fight to create a better democracy.

Registering to vote has never been easier. All you need is your address and your National Insurance number and go to HERE


  • Gill Martin

    I think the disadvantage to allowing 16 year olds to vote is, they would get to vote on things that will affect the tax payers, whilst not being tax payers themselves. The advantage however, to letting them vote is, I would imagine they will not be so apathetic as many of those currently eligible to vote. In fact it might even encourage some of those that currently do not vote to do so.

  • Fred

    The government are barking up the wrong tree targeting the under 16s to try and get them voted in, that’s what Andrew George wants.

  • Terry Tibbs

    Lol, “democracy”. You mean Corporatocracy.

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