As many of you will know, Britain has, for better or worse, recently voted to leave the European Union. I won’t be sharing my personal opinion on which way I wanted the referendum to swing today but I’m sure I will post something discussing that in the future. Today however, is all about utilising the power you have as a citizen of your country – be it the UK, USA or any other democratic state.

In Scotland, where I live, our government has passed a law stating that all sixteen and seventeen year olds are granted the right to vote in Scottish elections. Many older members of society were, and still are, against this decision even though, in my experience, this has resulted in teens becoming far more engaged in politics (and not just local issues, but national and worldwide ones at that). Speaking as a seventeen, going on eighteen-year-old girl, who actively enjoys debating with people, I can vouch for this sentiment. If I hadn’t received a vote in the Scottish Independence referendum in 2014 then I might not even be writing this post today.

The reason I am writing this post today though, is to discuss how important voting really is. Unfortunately, even though I am a competent young individual with my own thoughts and opinions, I didn’t receive a vote in the EU referendum because I was just shy of turning eighteen. I missed out on this opportunity by one week, in fact.

Because I didn’t get to voice my opinion in this monumental, life changing decision, I do feel genuinely angry when I hear of people not exercising their democratic right by taking a few minutes out of their day to visit a polling station. How can we expect to make the correct decisions for our country when a percentage of those who have a vote are not expressing their opinion?

I understand that politics can be frustrating, and attempting to trust what politicians say can be equally as challenging. I get it. I listen to these people on the news, and TV shows such as BBC’s Question Time, and I know that they aren’t always who we wish were representing us but they’re what we’ve got. They are the people who are going to listen to us and make decisions based on our views. Plus, we can always VOTE them out in the next general or local elections if we so wish. That’s the beauty of democracy, for those of us who speak up about issues affecting our lives.

I don’t believe there is, or ever will be, a good enough excuse for people to not use their vote. “I don’t care,” or “I don’t know enough about what’s going on,” should never be an acceptable response. If you know someone who has ever used any variation of these excuses, then why not question them? Ask them why they don’t care, because they should. They should voice what they think is best for their country. Share your own views with the people who “don’t know enough about what’s going on,” and direct them to a place where they can find out more information. People not using their vote isn’t only their issue, it’s yours. It is also your responsibility.

No one in any democratic country should have obstacles or barriers in the way of being heard and voicing their opinion. Who knows, if all of the non-voters in the EU referendum had gone to a polling station on the 23rd June, then Britain could be in a completely different situation at the moment. One which didn’t involve the Prime Minister resigning, Sterling’s value depreciating or the possibility of Scotland becoming an independent state, again. This goes for all elections and referendums across the globe.

If YOU do not use YOUR right to vote, then you are disenfranchising yourself from your own possibilities and opportunities. Even if you think you don’t care now, the decisions made today by YOUR generation will positively or negatively affect all generations to come. All of them.

So, the next time a polling card comes through YOUR front door with YOUR name written on it, please really consider whether or not you want your voice to be heard. I can guarantee you now, I will never not take up the opportunity to change my country for the better. I’ll keep changing the world as a whole, one vote at a time.

One voice can make a loud noise.

Your vote matters.

Published by Shannon Haggarty