A guest post by placement student Victoria Clarke.
Last month marked the start of a new exhibition here at PHM, in anticipation of the upcoming general election. Election! Britain Votes contains several spaces for our visitors to share their experiences, ideas, and creative flair. The responses we collected for the ‘Share Your Voting Memories’ ballot box range far and wide from the young to the old, the joyous to the apathetic.
While voting in local and general elections is only allowed by those aged 18 and up, several visitors recounted childhood memories of elections and voting.
From watching the results on television, to accompanying a voter, to participating in school council elections, early experiences of elections clearly have staying power.
The most resounding result from the ballots is the significance with which people treat it – rejecting the idea of apathy regarding the upcoming elections. Memories shared with us of being a first time voter are joyous and solemn in the understanding that they are able to exercise a degree of choice in the governing of the country, and the changes it can make to their lives.
One visitor recalls voting in the 1970 election at the age of 20, and having “felt so pleased to be able to cast my vote.”
While reading the results, I was struck by one ballot paper which particularly resonated with me –having been a few months too young to vote in the 2010 election, this year will also be my first chance to vote in a general election. According to a study published by the House of Commons on general election statistics since 1964, in the 2010 election only 51% of eligible young people aged 18-24 cast their vote, in comparison with 75% of those aged over 65 (Aliyah Dar, 2013). It is refreshing to see a member of the young electorate dispel the myth that young people do not care to vote.
The Election! Britain Votes exhibition marks the present day in the centuries-long struggle for human suffrage in Britain. Please continue to share your memories of voting – whether you have voted or not.