This year, I’ll be a first-time voter.
To be honest, the idea of voting can be a somewhat daunting thing to contemplate for a first-timer. First I have to navigate the registration process and of course, I don’t want to just make any old decision; I want to make an informed vote. One that takes into account the things that matter to me and makes sure that they’re represented by whichever party, candidate or policy I pick.
When faced with so many choices, I think there is definitely a temptation just to not even bother because really, how much of a difference will my one vote make? But then I remind myself, if everyone were to have that attitude who knows what would happen?!
So then comes the whole decision-making process. I’m definitely a BBC gal so that would be my first point of call, and I like to think they have really good coverage on a lot of these issues – whenever an election comes around they have lots of info in the UK politics section. Then I google searched the EU referendum. The thing is, you could spend every waking moment trying to get up-to-date by reading “EU ref info”, “All you need to know”, “the Pros and Cons” and “Latest news, polls and analysis”.
Ok, so what about going directly to the running parties or campaigns websites to hear what they have to say for themselves? With titles such as: “Britain Stronger in Europe” and “Vote Leave, Take Control!” there’s always going to be an obvious bias on these sites. Keeping that in mind, it’s still good to hear from the source rather than just hearing their stance through potentially manipulated media.
The reality I realise, is that everyone has an opinion and while I can’t find a completely objective angle, I am at least trying to understand and get perspectives on all the different angles – looking at the news, the campaigns and then talking to people I consider wiser and older and more knowledgeable then me.*
At the end of the day, for me it’s all about entering the discussion. As someone who often thinks aloud, chatting with the people around me has always been a good way to air my thoughts and get input and different perspectives while helping me express and develop my own ideas. As a Christian, praying and including God in my discussion, is vital as well.
This has been one of the most vital parts of the decision-making process for me, because it’s as I develop my own ideas that I start to process the things that are important to me and then I can consider who represents those things best.
For example, although I’m not a native Londoner, I’ve been drawn in to the upcoming mayoral elections, particularly because I’m a politics student, and I’m doing a London internship with a heavy emphasis on politics at the moment. So it’s really something that’s been on my mind: a test-vote scenario, if you will.
I’ve been thinking a lot about how I would vote in this mayoral election, if I were eligible and have realised, through these conversations, that the policies that would most affect me are around transport fees, safety in the evenings, living costs and green spaces for running.
Another thing that I’ve been questioning in the mayoral election race, is voting strategically – Khan and Goldsmith are the two favourites to win, but do I go with the crowd and the expected majority or do I vote for another candidate, even if they’re less likely to win? How do you choose to vote, if you feel like the main candidates or policies don’t represent you?
That question of: “What do I do now?!” has been weighing on me: I guess I would like to think I would vote for who I think will do the most good – even if they focus on different topics than I would have liked.
To be honest, the arguments of the prospective candidates often all sound the same. It’s regularly the same spiel about who will do this and who promised to do that… So another question I’ve been trying to ask myself is: “Who would be most effective?”
Deciding who to vote for is a LONG process and I’m lucky through my study and internship to have had the time and space to consider the angles more closely than I would have in my regular, busy life. And I’m still unsure.
One of the things I’ve come to realise is the fact that no one really knows as much as they think they do. Like with the referendum for example: no one actually knows what the consequences of a Brexit decision would be, despite our best predictions.
At the end of the day though, I have to remind myself that we do have a system that enables us all to vote, we have parties which present us with options, and there is information out there if we look for it.
So when it comes to that decisive moment when I cast my first vote, I’ll carry with me the thought of the many people who have fought for the right to vote and to build the current system of government that allows me to, as well. I see it is as a privilege to have the option at all.
* Though it has been said that if you go to someone you respect and talk politics with them, you might lose your respect for them!
Want to get more informed on the views of London mayoral candidates? Want to have your say? Come to the London Mayoral Church Hustings on Tuesday 19 April, and hear the top five candidates.