This paper reports on what young people themselves believe their democratic responsibility is and what their level of engagement should be. It argues that their testimony provides an important insight and crucial information that will be of use not just to academics but also to electoral commissions interested in encouraging and engaging young voters.
There were a range of issue identified by participants pertaining to young voters that were common themes throughout the various presentations to the workshop on Engaging Young Voters. These included the fact that while young people are engaged and interested in issues they see as relevant to their lives, they are less inclined to participate in ‘traditional’ political activities – such as joining political parties. It was noted that increasing numbers of young people are reporting that they wouldn’t vote if voting wasn’t compulsory. While party politics still dominates the Australian political landscape to many young people traditional parties are irrelevant to them and the issues that concern them. While all these issues are of concern, the workshop’s focus was to try to reach a common understanding of how we can best ensure that young people understand enough to become informed voters.
The issue of civics education was raised – and while some individual schools do a good job, it seems that the extent to which this education helps voting age youth to understand the mechanics of how to vote correctly – to ensure that their vote counts – is not standardised across the country. Indeed as reported in the synopsis under, many young people report being scared and ill-informed about how to lodge a valid vote. The paper suggests young people report that they are not prepared for voting by the time they leave school. And the paper argues that it is time we listened to young people, and actively engage and work with them to uncover strategies that will enable them to be confident and informed voters.