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Increasing Sense of Efficacy and Convenience of Voting for Young Voters

NewsLetter The data from the OECD Social Indicators for 2016, indicates that the voter turnout for those between 18-24 years old across the globe, on an average is 16% lower than those between the ages of 25-50 years old. This is not a singled out phenomenon but part of a bigger and continuing trend.

The act of voting is indicative of ones sense of belonging to and responsibility for the larger community. Usually, a high voter turnout is observed in countries where elections are being held for the first time or a new election system has been introduced. Thus, with historic changes such as the revision of a Constitution or the end of an authoritarian regime, citizens tend to feel more obliged to fulfill their civic duty by going to the polling stations and also more optimistic about the impact they can make on the society by casting ballots. However, the motivation for such withdrawal may vary from political fatigue, disenhancement with the overestimated probability of casting a decisive ballot, or even a positive stability in institutions, or a case in which election of certain individual politicians does not bring any significant changes to the society et al.

Additionally, the statistics provided by the OECD on average indicate that 25% of young persons report to be not at all interested in politics when compared to 20% of the total population in the OEC. This disinterest in politics especially high among youth communities in the Czech Republic, Lithuania and Hungary. Some suggested solutions to counteract the same include:
• Civic education on universal and equal suffrage as ones inalienable right and duty should continue to take place in the public sector to alleviate the issues. Prospective voters should be given hands-on experience in casting a ballot that also proves to be effective in familiarizing them with the electoral processes that could otherwise appear vague.
• Election management body must be able to provide them with a convenient voting experience such as postal voting, mobile voting and early voting.
• Political parties and candidates must identify young voters needs and come up with effective policies that address those issues. When there is assurance for both, the sense of efficacy and convenience in the act of voting, young voters will be more readily persuaded to invest their time and energy into the electoral process- not just in voting but from looking up for candidates pledges to participate in election campaigns and even observe elections at their own will.
• For young voters to find voting a more convenient experience, EMBs may introduce internet voting and mobile voting as complementary methods of voting. If implementing these poses controversies due to concerns related to cyber-security and secrecy of ballot and the issue of ‘digital divide’ among different age and economic groups, then providing an early voting option would also help better accommodate young voters convenience in voting.

Finally, it is important to note that for young voters to become acutely aware of their self- interest at stake during the election period, the information pertinent to their concerns needs to be easily available to them.

Kim Yong Hi
Secretary General, Association of World Election Bodies