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Strategies for empowering Young and future Voters: Malaysian commonwealth Studies centre”

NewsLetter If elections and constitutional structures within a democratic framework are to function effectively and produce appropriate outcomes; then voter education have to be an essential part of this fabric. Additionally, there are statutory distinctions between different Election Management Bodies (EMBs) and some may not have the role or resources conferred on them in order to discharge a responsibility for informing citizens about their voting rights. Since 2001, the Malaysian Commonwealth Studies Centre has developed an electoral democracy programme of seminars and other activities which has brought together senior leaders from a number of Election Management Bodies.

It is imperative to note that with changing times there are also changes in the society and the engagement programmes must be keep these changes into consideration while planning for the future interventions. A few examples of Significance shared were-The innovative Systematic Voters Education and Electoral Participation (SVEEP) programme and other initiatives such as the Pappu videos/outdoor and signature campaigns/reminder messages on SMS/ essay competitions; all of which were initiated by the Indian Election Commission, Electoral education as a statutory duty of Elections Canada (EC) for which EC uses different modes of communication, its election website, national advertising campaign, suite of information products and outreach campaigns all had a specific dimension targeting young and future voters among others.

The United Kingdom Electoral Commission (EC) focused on trying to raise awareness amongst young people as part of its statutory responsibility (then) for voter education. The public awareness campaigns targeted at this demographic group provided information about voter registration but also adopted a campaigning approach emphasising how specific social issues such as poverty , health, education and employment required active citizenship through the voting process.

The onus for imparting education and creating awareness for the young and future voter lies on the Election Management Bodies. After all, if not EMBs then who else is capable enough for this task? Secondly, the planning of interventions and also making sure that they yield the desired effect on the target group. Lastly, It has to be made sure that the approach of the EMBs is always forward looking and responsive to the changing societal environment. This can be achieved only through enhancing the institutional capabilities of EMBs.

It is believed from experiences at the Centre that some senior leaders have recognised the critical significance of this particular issue and have tried to address this with targeted specific communication and content strategies. The New Delhi Declaration following on from the conference on Inclusive Participation, combined with the current leadership of the VoICE.NET initiative by the Election Commission of India and the launch of the Indian International Institute of Democracy and Election Management (IIIDEM) affords an opportunity for supporting a sustained global emphasis on enhancing institutional capacity in and sharing information about innovative strategies to empower young and future voters within democracies.

Karamjit Singh,
Trustee, Malaysian Commonwealth Studies Centre