A note from the Features Editor: Rhianna Hurren-Myers
“I’d rather be a rebel than a slave” – Emmeline Pankhurst
Last year we paid homage to 100 years since women were first given the vote in parliamentary elections in the UK. A momentous occasion, and a well-deserved reminder of the incredible sacrifices made by the women involved in the suffragette or suffragist movement. There is just one small problem: last year’s celebrations were pretty much a lie.
What we really commemorated last year was the passing of the Representation of People Act, which gave women over the age of 30 – who met the right requirements, of course – the right to vote. Anyone who hasn’t seen the best film to come out of 2015, ‘Suffragette’, starring Carey Mulligan as well as Meryl Streep as Emmeline Pankhurst, I wholeheartedly recommend you do once you have finished this article. Around 8.5 million women did meet the criteria for this Act, which sounds like a lot, but it was really only two-thirds of the total population of women in the UK who were added to the electoral register.
So if we were to celebrate voting rights honestly, it’s actually not until 2028 that we can truthfully say “it has been 100 years since women in the UK had the same rights as men in parliamentary elections”. That motion passed with the ‘Equal Franchise Act’ in 1928, which added over 15 million women to the voting electorate.
Again, a huge achievement. A brilliant step in the right direction. However, we’re still not being honest and reflecting on the bigger picture. It wasn’t until 1969 that 18 year-olds were given the right to vote within the UK, and to consider ethnic equality within voting rights reveals, in my opinion, an even bigger crime than gender. Australia, celebrated as the second country to give women the right to vote in 1902, actually didn’t allow aboriginal women that same right until 1962. South African women won the right to vote much later in the 1930s, but black citizens were not given full voting rights until the end of the Apartheid in the 1990s.
Place yourself in the context of one hundred years ago, and the social factors you identify yourself with today could drastically alter whether or not you would have had the right to vote.
I’m not saying this to be depressing (although it is, a little bit). I’m saying it to help people understand why I find casting my vote at the ballot box so important. The history of voting equality within this country is a crime against gender. It is a crime against youth. It is a crime against ethnic minorities. How far have we come? True, we are a long old way from 1918, but how long did it take? Too long, and we’re still not there.
It’s more than ‘important’ to cast your vote. It’s empowering, and it seems like Cardiff University students agree…
Sarah Belger: ‘Every vote counts’ is a cliche for a reason
I, along with many of my friends, wasn’t old enough to vote in the Brexit referendum in 2016 and if our age group had been able to have our say in the decision then the outcome could easily have been very different.
Since then I’ve had the chance to vote in local, general and European elections and I wasn’t about to miss my opportunity to contribute to these major political changes. Honestly, I see very little reason not to. It takes minutes to make sure you’re registered and not much longer to go out and cast your vote.
To complain about the current political situation when you could have voted to at least try and change it, but chose not to, to me makes no sense. In 2016 we saw a 4% difference between ‘leave’ and ‘remain’. The phrase ‘every vote counts’ is cliché for a reason.
Alexia Barrett: Voting is our superpower
Being a member of a democracy is a special. Many people lack our liberty, some are forced to become Stateless because they don’t have our advantages. We each have the power to change something. We can be heard. Voting means using our ability as citizens, it means having a say in the decision-making process, and making a difference just by going to the ballot box.
I feel a sense of security when I remember that I can have an impact in the country I call home. The knowledge that, to some degree, I have control over my life and over the institutions that influence my life. The people in power are not omnipotent, they must conform to checks and balances, they must be made accountable for their decisions, and by voting I have contributed to that accountability.
One vote matters, one vote can change the tide. Voting is our superpower.
Bronte Spargo: I believe my vote can make a difference
As a woman, I believe it is imperative to vote. As women were not granted the vote until 1918 (and even then, it was only women over 30 who met property qualifications), and many women died for our freedom to have our say in the politics of this country, it is a very important right for me.
The suffragettes campaigned furiously throughout the early 1900s for something that many people take for granted today. As so many women and marginalised groups in other countries still struggle to be granted their basic human rights (women were only granted the vote in Saudi Arabia in 2015 and people still cannot vote in the Vatican City), this only strengthens my resolve to vote in any and all elections I can.
I believe my vote can make a difference and can help implement change in this country.
Harriet Lowbridge: I vote because I am angry
To start bluntly, I vote because I’m angry. I’m angry and I’m tired. Angry that issues such as climate change have fallen into my generation’s ballet boxes instead of history books. Tired of the litany of complaints I hear about the ‘state of our world’. At least when it boils down to it you can have an ‘I told you so’ ready because you voted in something you believe in. You don’t need me to tell you about the hundreds of people who fought and suffered for your right to vote, or that it’s your civil responsibility to do so. You already know this.
When our lives are just facts and figures in future history books are you going to be the one who sat on the sidelines? Or will you have been angry too and said, ‘Cuss it, I’m taking control now’. If everyone got a little bit angrier about our world, a whole lot more would get done.
Katherine Mallett: One vote may be all it takes
It’s a British tradition to have a good, old moan. We believe we have every right to grumble about the weather or having to go to work or what rubbish is on the TV now (celebrity Xfactor wtf?!?!). But one item that you are not allowed to complain about is the state of British politics IF you forfeited your vote and didn’t put your cross in the desired box.
It is impossible to demand change, if we ourselves are not willing to do something as simple as voting. It’s 2019, and in some countries women are still fighting for the simple freedom of casting their vote. It is therefore not just a choice, but an indisputable duty to exercise our right and ‘be the difference we want to see’ (painfully cliché but also very true).
One vote may seem almost insignificant to you. But one vote may be all it takes.
So that’s why we vote. Why do you?