Hopefully you have heard by now that there is a general election on the 7th May 2015, to decide which political party will run the country and who will hold the seats on the local council. We at the Information Store are all for voting, so here’s a guide to our resources and some handy links to help you understand it!
There are three simple steps to voting:
1) Register to vote. If you aren’t registered to vote, you can still register right up until the 20th April (next Monday, so not much time!) You can do it online through this link, as well as finding out more about the election: https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote
2) Have your polling card handy when you go to the polling station, or send in your vote in plenty of time by post if you are using the postal vote system. You can still vote without your polling card as long as you’re on the electoral register for that area, but it makes it quicker and simpler.
3) Vote! Make sure you know where your polling station is and get there in a decent amount of time before the polls close.
A lot of people think that their vote won’t make a difference, but every vote counts. If you don’t want to vote for any of the political parties, you can register a protest vote, for instance by writing ‘none of the above’ on your ballot paper (which makes it clear you aren’t just filling it in wrong). While voting is much more likely to make a difference, polling stations do register the number of spoiled ballot papers, and it is far better than not voting at all, as it shows you care about the political process but don’t agree with the choices on offer.
The government is advising people not to take selfies or photos in the polling booths as it could threaten the secrecy of the vote and could put people who are taking photos in violation of the law by accident. So take your selfies outside the polling station!
Learning More About Politics
We have some great resources in the Information Store about politics.
What Happens At An Election? (BOOK ZONE 324.60941) is a helpful introduction to what’s going on right now in the country. Elections are complicated, and it’s important to know when, where and why everything is happening.
Vote For Who? (BOOK ZONE 324.6) is full of frequently asked questions about election and voting, including helping you decide who to vote for based on what their policies mean to you. It helps with the jargon and is a refreshingly down-to-earth look at politics.
Politics UK (NORFOLK HOUSE 320.941) is a great way of learning more about the politics of the UK. It’s divided into sections and has lots of questions to think about as you go through. Since this book is used for lots of politics courses, it’s an accessible introduction to the subject.
There are also plenty of really useful websites out there explaining the process of voting and the reasons to vote.
The League of Young Voters is an organisation dedicated to making the complicated political system clearer and more accessible for young voters, or voters who haven’t done it before. It has links to useful websites and tools, and guides to the voting process, as well as explaining the difference between local elections and EU elections.
Like the League of Young Voters, Voting Counts campaign to encourage people to vote, but doesn’t just focus on young people’s issues.
While the author of this blog admits to being left-wing, she also strives to be neutral when explaining why you should care about the big issues being talked about in this election, all designed for people who don’t think they “get” politics.
Ideas like “right-wing” and “left-wing” can seem complicated, so here’s a handy graphic to show what policies and attitudes are often true of people on the right or left of the political spectrum. The graphic was made for American politics, so not all of it is true of UK politics – for instance, the American right is much more associated with religious attitudes than the UK right. However, it’s a fascinating and helpful guide to the political spectrum.
Political Compass plots UK parties both along the right and left spectrum and the ideals of authoritarianism and libertarianism. To learn more about all of these terms, Political Compass has helpful definitions and explanations, and lots of suggestions for further reading.
British politics has traditionally been a race between the Labour Party, the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrat Party. However, this election year, we have seen a surge in popularity for two smaller parties: UKIP and the Green Party.
Confused about what all these parties mean? Well, there are a couple of websites that show you the policies of these parties without their names attached so you can decide who you think most represents your values.
Vote Match is a mobile-friendly site (with an app as well) that shows you the major policies being discussed in the 2015 election without being attached to particular parties, so you can work out which party best fits your views. You can arrange the policy areas in terms of importance to you and also say during the quiz whether certain policies are things you feel very strongly about or not. It breaks each policy down into a nice clear (short) statement. At the end, the quiz will tell you which party agrees with your policy choices most and you can then have a look at the different political parties’ views on the areas that matter most to you. It’s user-friendly and fun. Give it a go!
For a more in-depth version of the same idea, try Vote for Policies. This website does involve a lot more reading but it shows you more detail about the policies of different parties in various policy areas. You can also exclude areas you aren’t interested in so you have less to read. Each one has a shorter summary with the option to read the complete set of policies. It can be a bit dry because Vote for Policies tries to keep as much of the original policy wording as possible, to stop their own bias from creeping in. You can also see the trends of other people who have used Vote For Policies in your area and get a breakdown of which areas you supported different parties’ policies in.