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Ensuring Your Voice is Heard: The Vitality of Registering to Vote and Voter ID

April 15th, 2024

Back in the day, my mother, who was from the Windrush generation was an ardent supporter of the then Labour Prime Minister, Harold Wilson.  As each of her 10 children approached 18 years of age, she made sure that we were aware of our civic duty to vote. On election day itself she marched us across the road to the local Polling Station held in our primary school; she was proud to have her say and for her children to follow suit. This very act ensured that the duty to vote became imprinted in my mind and the duty was passed intergenerationally as I accompanied my daughter to her first Polling Station in Haringey, ten years ago. 

In a time where every voice counts, the importance of these civic duties cannot be overstated. With pivotal elections looming on the horizon, understanding the significance of these actions is paramount. 

The deadline for registering to vote in the upcoming elections is fast approaching. Citizens must ensure their names are on the electoral roll by 11.59pm on the 16th of April 2024 to have their say in the democratic process. Failure to do so could result in the silencing of one's voice, a consequence far too grave in the context of shaping our collective future. 

As stated in the newsletter from Black Equity Organisation this week: 

‘In 2022, 28% of Black voters in Great Britain were not registered to vote. That’s a quarter of the Black population not having their voice heard and not exercising their democratic right to vote. Tuesday 16th April also marks National Voter Registration Day led by My Life My Say, a youth-led, non-partisan movement on a mission to encourage young people to participate in democracy, and get every single young person voting.’ 

Things are also changing significantly this time around as equally crucial is the necessity for proper identification when casting a ballot. The safeguarding of our electoral integrity hinges upon this fundamental requirement. Recent history, both at home and abroad, serves as a stark reminder of the ramifications of neglecting this obligation. Instances of individuals being disenfranchised due to lack of identification, as witnessed in the United States, underscore the vulnerability of our electoral system to manipulation and exclusion. 

The Greater London Authority (GLA), in collaboration with Shout Out UK, launched a commendable campaign to raise awareness about the importance of Voter ID. Since January 2023, The Ubele Initiative has been steadfast in its support of this initiative, recognizing its potential to empower communities and fortify our democratic framework. Through education and advocacy, these organisations seek to dispel myths surrounding Voter ID requirements and ensure that no eligible voter is left behind. 

At the heart of this movement lies the principle of inclusivity. The introduction of Voter ID has led to much debate, as it means that those without proper identification will lose their right to vote. Every eligible citizen, regardless of background or circumstance, must have equal access to the ballot box. To deny any individual this right is to undermine the very essence of democracy itself. 

The date of the upcoming elections looms large, a pivotal moment in our nation's history. On May 2nd 2024, residents across the country will converge upon polling stations to exercise their democratic prerogative. Let us ensure that each voice is heard, each vote counted, and each citizen empowered to shape the course of our collective destiny. We should not underestimate the seriousness of our civic responsibilities.  

Let us show our commitment to democracy, of our belief in the power of the people to effect change. Together, let us ensure that the voice of every citizen resounds loudly and unequivocally on Election Day. 

Yvonne Field OBE

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