Updated: Sep 21, 2020
Working at every level from grassroots to governmental, UN House Scotland is committed to the promotion of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): 17 international goals designed to foster global sustainable peace and prosperity. It is in contributing to SDG4 – Quality Education – that UNHS is proud to be partnered with Voting Counts.
Quality Education is not limited to the classroom, nor to ‘traditional’ academia, but rather describes lifelong learning, in “inclusive and equitable” settings. Informed engagement in local, national and international politics – based on a factual education in political issues – is absolutely crucial, and we commend Voting Counts’ commitment to providing simple and unbiased political information.
This interview with Voting Counts’ founder Rachael Farrington kicks off UNHS’ new series of collaborations with like-minded civil society and other third sector groups, intended to raise further awareness of social progress and the SDGs.
If you or your organisation would like to get involved, please contact the Communications Team: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Taken from https://votingcounts.org.uk/
What inspired you to start Voting Counts? How did your idea progress?
When I was seventeen I was having a conversation with a friend ahead of the European Elections, she explained that she felt ill informed about the upcoming election, how it would affect her life, as a result she didn’t think she would vote. I tried to find some simple information for her, as well as a list of reasons why she should always vote but couldn’t find a single resource. I had been building websites for some years so took the initiative to build a simple website answering all her questions, because I was sure that others would share her problems.
I believe you were a student when you started Voting Counts – is youth electorate engagement still a particular focus of yours?
Definitely, the website was designed to help out first time voters understand why their vote is important and provide them with the basic information they need to get them started with political engagement. The aim is really to get people to vote for the first time, and then make it a habit.
Since I’ve been working on the website it has grown, and is certainly not used by young adults alone, but I hope that even though I may not be classed as a young voter anymore, (24!) that the website will still be able to communicate to this important group.
What has been the most notable achievement/success of Voting Counts to date?
I think the media coverage we get at election time is a huge success for me, it means we’re being taken seriously as a resource and it provides an opportunity to reach so many people as possible. The media has also been a learning curve for me personally, having to learn how to answer difficult questions, and make the case for voting in a concise and clear way.
Are there any central issues (political, social, or otherwise) which you think are most crucial in the current climate?
I think this in an interesting question because the answer is different for everyone. We too often group people thinking they all care about the same issues, where in reality our interests and the policy issues we care about are massively influenced by our own experience. So for me, housing, the economy and the environment are of interest, but for my friend (or even me in 6 months time) it will be completely different. That’s why on our website we break the manifestos down by issues, so you can compare the political parties based on the issues that matter to you personally.
In your view, is voter engagement or voter education more important?
Voter education is certainly important, when done right. For me this is about providing people with the basic information and tools they need to make their own decisions, which is what Voting Counts tries to do.
Voter or political engagement however is deeper; this is about providing opportunities for citizens engage with democracy directly. It covers things as simple as signing a petition or sharing a tweet about an issue they care about, all the way up to voting or standing for office. Political engagement is a key part of being a member of a democratic country, and for many is something they do without even noticing – they do these things because they care about the issues and the people they affect, not ‘politics’ or ‘elections’ as a single subject. Small actions add up and shape our society.
Do you also provide information on devolved authority voting/elections?
Yes we do, but this is something I want (and need) to improve! I was blown away by the exhibit in the Scottish Parliament building when I visited last year, it was a fantastic display of the history of the institution and I wanted to convey this as much as possible on our website.
However, I’m always looking to provide opportunities for young adults to write for us. So if you think we’re missing something, I’d love to hear from you.
What advice would you give to someone wishing to become more involved in politics or in voter education/engagement?
I’d tell them to start with the things they care about, it’s a lot easier to get passionate and fight for causes that really matter to you, or that you have personal experience with. You can also start local and work your way up – for example I remember running a petition when I was 15 to get a music venue in my local town, which led to me meeting with the Mayor to discuss the issues.