A Letter to my Ugandan Youth voter!
The right to vote is inseparable from the right to participate in public life. Through voting, you can choose the candidate who will work on the issues you care most about. Voting helps steer policies that affect both the future direction of your country and your daily life. For instance; if youth unemployment is an important issue to you, you will vote for a candidate who has the best plan to create jobs and fund a training programme aimed at youth.
As a citizen, you have the responsibility to be informed. So take time to educate yourself before you go to the polls. Learn how to register to vote and make sure you register before the deadline. Know the date of the elections; know your assigned polling stations, know the required documentation you need to bring to the polling station and know the candidates and issues. Inform yourself by watching candidate debates, attending political events and following news about the issues and the candidates. Elections can be an important entry point to allow you to influence politics in your country. Improvements in the quality of your life can happen when you are able to exercise sufficient power to influence your government.
Voting is important but Election Day is only one day. The periods before and after an election are also opportunities to advocate for issues you care about. Before an election, candidate willing to attract votes are often willing to learn more about issues of importance to their constituents. After an election, hold your representative accountable for following through on their election pledges. For example; during a campaign, a candidate may promise to reduce youth unemployment. After they are elected, you can form a Youth-Advocacy group to remind them of this pledge. The group can pressure elected officials to create and pass laws that will help more young people find jobs. Your group can also track how the government spends public funds to make sure that they are used for intended purposes such as youth skills and capacity building programs. These activities help fight corruption in public spending, they also remind elected officials to pay attention to the constituents concerned throughout the whole electoral cycle.
You cannot truly express your political voice unless you are first informed about your voting choices. In deciding how to vote, you should focus on the candidates’ ideas for the future, look beyond personalities of the candidate or who might share religion, gender, ethnicity or place of origin. As a voter, focus on the issues. Issue based voter education assists voters in making decision based on a specific problem. This helps to assure the voter focus on how the candidate plans to solve the problem and not the overall ideology. Make sure candidates are aware of your main concerns and why an issue is relevant to your life. Know what matters to you whether its healthcare, education or unemployment. Focusing on issues, helps you understand how voting for on a given party or candidate can lead to the change you want to see.
You have a vested interest in election outcomes and you can mobilize your fellow youth. Encourage them to register to vote, challenge them to vote on substantive issues and inspire their sustained engagement in the political process beyond Election Day.
Remember! Buying and selling votes leads to reduced government accountability, decrease its trust in politics and increases corruption.
Your political power lies in your vote. You can use it to make a difference in your life, the life of your fellow youth, family and the future of your country. Vote the change you want to see and stay engage to ensure that your voice continues to be heard long after Election Day.