Politics

How Young People Will Shape European Elections 2019

This Time I’m Voting is an apolitical grassroots campaign, by the European Parliament, encouraging everyone to vote in the European Elections on the 24th of May, 2019. Through the campaign, 15,000 volunteers like myself will canvass, drop leaflets, spark conversations and pass on information on how voting in these elections is as important as any other national vote.

With the departure of the UK from the EU on the 29th of March, the number of seats will go down from 751 to 703 in the parliament. However, Ireland will gain two seats, meaning 13 seats will be contested. While many have either confirmed or are likely to confirm their re-election campaigns, three experienced MEPs, Brian Hayes, Nessa Childers and Brian Crowley have announced they are not seeking re-election. This means fresh faces for the voting paper and political parties such as varied as Fianna Fáil, Irexit and Workers Party announcing candidates to win seats in Brussels and Strasbourg. Even for Eurosceptics, the fact that in 2014, two years before Brexit, UKIP won the most seats and votes in Europe and became a precursor for the current situation in the UK.

However, these people are not usually representative of most of the voting populace, especially young people. While voting numbers in the last two elections are higher in Ireland than the EU27 average, due to coinciding local elections, the youth vote, on the contrary, is one of the lowest, at only 22%. This perpetuates the stereotype that young people, due to their busy schedules with exams and projects, are generally apathetic to voting, even if they wish to commit to a political viewpoint. Despite media coverage of the elections up 33% since 2014, it is only rising from an incredibly minute coverage in traditional and even social media.

This is where I come in, as recently I have become a DCU ambassador for TTIV (This Time I’m Voting). Despite only setting up recently with four ambassadors so far, we have debates between the political parties, campaigning and coordinating with the SU on voter registration, putting posters up and setting up info booths with information to entice people to stop and take a moment to ask what Europe means to them.

The main focus on this is to remind young people of the importance of the European Union. Even with the issues, people may see with it, in fact using these MEPs to highlight these issues creates change for the future, so long as it is for the common good of all EU citizens in the long term.

The MEPs themselves encouraged young people to vote and were incredibly open to all the student journalists’ questions on a trip to Brussels I was on, organised by the European Parliament. It has encouraged me to talk openly about politics, both locally through canvassing and through having my words about the This Time I’m Voting campaign emailed nationally as a university and local ambassador.

I would encourage anyone who has any interest in politics or feels that the right to vote is instrumental should join the campaign. Even if it is just talking to family members, friends or even venting out to a stranger, it is mainly through these that people can find the motivation to work.

The more young people vote, the more the politicians listen and the stronger our European democracy can be, in the face of challenges both here, across Europe and internationally.