LGBTI young people say it's important to vote in the Indy Ref

I’m sitting in the office at LGBT Youth Scotland listening to the chatter of young people talking about how to vote tomorrow. Most of them will have made their minds up by now so they’re talking about what the ballot paper will look like, where their polling station is etc. 

Historically there’s often a poor youth turn-out in elections. In our experience though lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex young people are often very interested and engaged in politics. They recognise how legislation can both negatively and positively affect their lives, from Section 28 to the recent Marriage Civil Partnership Bill.  The Independence Referendum is no different; it’s certainly caught their interest. They’ve have been waying up the pros and cons, discussing how each outcome may affect LGBTI human rights and all the issues across the board from defence to the economy.

With 97% of the eligible voting population in Scotland now registered to vote we’re hopeful that the youth turn-out will be high. It a historical day for many reasons and with 16 and 17 year olds voting for the first time it’s a big deal for young people generally. After the dust has settled I’m interested in what we can learn about engaging young people in elections in the future.

Why is the youth vote important?

  • When politicians know in advance that most young people don't vote, they may be less interested in making the effort to be responsive to issues that matter to younger people.
  • Some say that young people don't vote because politicians don't care about youth issues or don't talk to young people in their own language. But by not voting, young people loose an important opportunity to make their voices heard by politicians.

We asked Nancy Russell (LGBT National Youth Council Elder) what they thought about young people voting:  

Why do you think it’s important that young people vote?
I think young people are underestimated across the board, they are often overlooked so it is important for young people to make their voices heard.

Are there any specific issues that are important for LGBT young people?
Specifically anything to do with equality issues such as gender recognition, marriage equality, LGBT asylum seekers and any gender or sexuality issues.

Do you think it’s a good thing that 16 and 17 year olds can vote?
Yes, I was sceptical at first but in Scotland you're a legal adult at 16 (with a few exceptions) I moved out of my parents’ home when I was 17, I know plenty of people who have been contributing to society from 16, so why should they be denied the right to vote?

I’m confident that young people will cast their vote in the Scottish Independence Referendum. Whatever the result, it’s been a phenomenal democratic process and we’ll be working with LGBT young people to ensure their views are heard on the future of Scotland!

By Cara Spence

For more information on how to vote: http://bit.ly/XVR7uB Voter Registration Guide