For some of us, engaging in democracy in the UK will be a new experience. Precarious status may have distanced our members from civic activity and excluded them from participating. Longstanding and unaddressed issues of xenophobia, race hate crime and exclusion may have left many individuals and communities feeling isolated and wary of democracy. Others may feel whatever they do is unlikely to make a difference, and feel apathetic and disengaged.
As well as registering and voting, mobilising around elections can be an opportunity to discuss these experiences with our members, and explore the different ways of collectively overcoming this marginalisation. Elections can also be a good time to raise awareness and to start new conversations in our local area – with faith institutions, unions and community associations – about how the issues we face can be addressed.
Speaking to your Community:
Your members may raise issues regarding the futility of participating in the election process. If you approach these conversations with patience and care you can demonstrate why elections – as part of a broader civic engagement – can help change the lives of those in your community for the better.
You may hear:
“My vote doesn’t make a difference.”
“I can’t be bothered. I just don’t care about politics, it has nothing to do with me.”
“I don’t know how or where to register. I didn’t know I can vote.”
“I don’t know who to trust. They all look the same to me. I do not understand the polices.”
Here are some ways that others have found it useful to approach these conversations:
- Connecting to the issues: elections may seem disconnected from the issues people face individually or as a community. This apathy is created by long-standing marginalisation by institutions that have not adequately served the needs of migrant communities – so it is understandable.
Talk about elections from the experience of your community, to establish common ground and shared values. Share your story and why you have chosen to engage. You can then discuss the importance of elections as one part of a democratic process to ensure your community’s voices are heard. One thing is clear: if you do not vote and speak up for the issues you care about, the changes you want are much less likely to happen.
- The importance of democracy and voting: Many people throughout history have fought and sacrificed their lives for the right to vote. They believed that people had the right to decide things for themselves and that democracy was necessary for people to live with freedom and dignity.
Today many people feel powerless and unrepresented. This should not stop us from participating in decision-making processes that affect our lives. As the EU Referendum has demonstrated, voting can make an enormous change to the country in which we live. In general elections, many seats are won by a very narrow margin of votes. Raising issues in marginal constituencies means that our voice is more powerful.
- Registration and voting is very easy. The process is not complicated, and it only takes a few moments. You can register on your smartphone or on a computer at gov.uk/register-to-vote; all you need are your personal details and National Insurance number.
For more good ideas on engaging your community, visit: