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If you are a teenager or young adult in Northern Ireland today, registering to vote is probably a normal part of your education in sixth-form or a further education college.

For some people it may feel like an important right and for others it may be a right that they don’t know much about or aren’t interested in. Yet in the history of the UK and Ireland the right to vote was considered so important that people campaigned, fought and even died to get it.

In some countries, for example Australia, it is actually compulsory to vote! So what’s the big deal?

A vital part of democracy is that elections are held and people have a ‘vote’ to decide who they want to run their country.


Elections must be fair. For example your vote is private – it is nobody’s business but your own unless you choose to tell people.

You should also be able to find out about what different parties stand for, so political parties need to be free to explain their views and the media needs to be free to broadcast about politics.

If you couldn’t find out about different political opinions then how could you make a good choice about which politician or political party you most agreed with? Actually, in the North West, many young people go to school with, are friends with and live in areas with people mainly from their own religion.

Since religion and politics are often linked here, maybe TV or other media become even more important in letting us hear different political viewpoints.
There is a lot of history around the right to vote – democracy first began formally in Ancient Greece but really developed in the 1700’s.

Many countries began their democracies by just giving the vote to very limited groups of people e.g. rich men or people from a particular race.
In 1893 New Zealand was the first country to give all its adults the right to vote (this is called ‘universal suffrage’).

Finland in 1906 was the first country to let any citizen who wanted to stand for parliament.

Universal suffrage took much longer in the UK and Ireland, and in particular in Northern Ireland, to be established.




   
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