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Democracy, Voting, and Representation in the Past and Present

Anna discusses Our Democracy’s October 7th event which will explore the foundations of ancient Greek democracy and how those foundations shape the democracies we live in today.

We often think of democracy as a right, as an unalienable right to which we give little consideration further than it means that we are entitled to a vote in who will lead our communities and countries. With the world “democracy” notions such as political parties, bipartisanship, disagreements and divides overwhelm many young people.

On Monday October 7th –17:15–at the Byre Theater on South Street, Our Democracy is showcasing an event to inform students on the nature and history of democracy. By focusing on the Athenian foundations of democracy, speakers –such as Classics Professor Tom Harrison– plan to encourage students to engage in the democratic process.

As a UK citizen, you are entitled to vote in your home constituency as well as your term-time constituency. Universities UK claims that 1.88 million UK citizens currently attend university. If all of those students voted in at least one of the constituencies to which they are entitled to, let alone both, the effect on UK politics would prove impactful. Indifference and lack of faith in the process prove a common theme amongst many young people. The feeling that your vote–and therefore your opinion –cannot and will not make a difference induces an ever-growing statistic of people eligible to vote to choose inaction. It is the belief of Our Democracy that if students eligible to vote understood better the academic aspect of democracy, more of these people would engage. The purpose of this event is to inform students on what they are entitled to and what those entitlements mean.

When asked about the bipartisanship nature of UK and US politics–and if that biased nature would invariably carry over to this event ­– President of the Student’s Association Jamie Rodney reported that democracy is dependent on having an informed, civic population who hold their elites and politicians accountable. Regardless of political affiliation, each student must take it upon themselves to be a part of this informed, civic population. This event means to inform on democratic systems, not the positions of the parties involved. Jamie discussed his opinion on current political feelings, explaining that most people seem fed up with modern politics. This apathy towards politics causes disinterest in democracy. While we look at democracy as a guaranteed right, the only thing keeping democracy alive is participation in the system.

The University takes action by encouraging voter registration at Matriculation, and the University communications team and Student’s Association push for events like these. During the annual accommodation talks –which will take place directly after Reading Week in Week 7–the University will encourage students to participate and vote in the major upcoming elections. The University is also pushing an event in which different societies and committees can form teams for a competition to see who can get the most people registered to vote.

By going online and registering to vote– for whichever country you belong to­–you are being an active part of the civic population. Our Democracy encourages everyone to attend events such as these because belonging to a political party isn’t enough. To be informed and responsible, you must understand the system you are inherently a part of. This event promises to showcase the academic side of democracy in a way which encourages active participation regardless of political leanings.

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