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First Time Voter, Last in Line

Many people – including most of us here – were disappointed that such a large number of young people didn’t enrol to vote in the 2013 election. “Imagine the difference they might have made”, we reflect. And yes, many of us are also quick to lay the blame for the election outcome at the feet of those who didn’t care to vote. “But who is really to blame for the government we ended up with?” asks first-time voter Oliver Clarke. “Those who didn’t vote, or those who did? Who put them there?”

Well, election day is getting closer, the dreaded Saturday when we come crawling out of our squats and into our cubicles, handed pencil, paper, and power. For most of the Australian public this is a standard occurrence, one done with ease, boredom, and for a majority of people not too much thought. But for some, myself included, this election will be our first time voting, and the last time political negligence is accepted.

A bunch of us will be forced to lose our electoral virginity this 2nd of July, already being kicked out of our bars and now crammed into the halls of primary schools, the backs of buildings, and other little vote-up joints where we can get high on the responsibility given to us by the all loving, all including Australian government. It’s strange to be suddenly subsumed in with all the geriatrics that lost interest in politics decades ago merely because one has turned 18. It seems conflicted; to be kept out of virtually everywhere only a year ago, and then now, finally free from the torments of school, to be shoved in and out of pubs, bars, and universities, and then out of childhood and into the Australian political system.

I’m sure I can speak for a lot of voters, and not just the first timers, by saying that on the day we’ll still be undecided on whom to vote for. Turnbull is a selfie-taking, promise failing mute, while Shorten is a disgruntled little child who fumbles and mumbles to even get a sentence out. Who of these men are we expected to put the hopes of our future in? It seems like they were never our age, and have always been worn, weak-boned creatures flopping out their policies but never fulfilling them. This election sees probably the least relatable, reliable, or recognisable political figures to ever grace the Australian government. And a lot of people simply don’t care anymore.

Most voters will be getting their political coverage from Facebook advertisements and two-line tweets, and wouldn’t know the faces or even the names of the candidates if they didn’t have a laptop. With more political coverage there is less political interest, and the first time voters who authentically care about who runs this country are hardly ever taken seriously.

All the old, tired, forty-somethings, who cry about having to put on pants to go and vote, still see first time voters as children. ‘They can’t vote!’ they say, ‘they’re only just old enough to drink alcohol, how can we expect them to make responsible decisions?’

To all these old timey, intellectually stunted, stay at home parents; How can we expect YOU to make responsible decisions?

The fact that being between ages 17 and 19 one is still treated like a baby is a major contributor to this era of lazy political interest. There has been an oddly strong push for everyone to enrol on time for this election, not only from parents, but from peers. It seems that mid twenty year olds have already condemned themselves to the role of nagging ‘when I was your age’ grandparents. They post constant reminders to enrol online, link poorly edited, monkey-written articles on the importance of this election, and preach paragraphs of complete nonsense that we are meant to take their political advice. God, am I still in Kindergarten? Why is this sunglass wearing, vape-smoking stranger who graduated three years ahead of me suddenly telling me that I can make a difference, that I can be the change? Why don’t they change? People need to stop handing down their political failures to be fixed by the next generation, because down is where they’ll go, through endless generations and people and hands. We might see a little change, yes, but by then the people who started it will be long gone, and their followers drooling in retirement homes.

What I dread most about voting day is not the voting, but the people I’ll be doing it next to. I can envision something similar to the first day at pre-school, the old, ‘hardened’ voter taking my hand like a teacher and guiding it to tick boxes, then giving me a lollipop for a political job-well-done. And I can’t stand that. Before preaching to first time voters as an excuse to voice your WONDERFUL political ideals, remember you were a first timer too. They don’t, and never did, want to take advice from the smellier, lazier, sadder people who are the reason they are forced to vote in the first place. The 2nd of July will be an important day, yes, and we have to make a vital decision, sort of, but let everyone, the young included, form their own political ideas, or we will see the same, tired manifestos spinning around and around again.

Oliver Clarke blogs at confessionaljournalism.

26 comments

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  1. Athena

    Studies and history have shown that people who don’t vote get ignored by the government. I read somewhere recently that there are still a few hundred thousand young Australians who have not enrolled to vote in this election. This is despite the Abbott government trying to screw them big time in its first budget. If only half of those young people who did not vote at the last election actually voted, we could have ended up with the ALP in government instead of the LNP.

    It’s all very well to consider that the oldies made the mess and so they should fix it. However you need to bear in mind that many of the demented old dearies are extremely gullible and easily manipulated (hence the reason why they are such a good target for shonky investors and dodgy tradies). They were raised in an era when one could believe what was printed in the newspapers. They still believe their steady diet of BS from Murdoch, who has dailies in every major city in the country. The Liberal Party sends out their own advertising material in the same envelope as the application for a postal vote and so the oldies believe it must be endorsed by the AEC, and on it goes. Young people with another 60+ years of life ahead of them cannot afford to have faith that the oldies will be voting in their best interests. Young people need to have a say in their future because you are the ones who will be living it.

    Anyway, it’s great that you intend to vote on Saturday. I’ve never had anyone preaching to me at a polling booth. Any of that is strictly forbidden close to and within the booth anyway (I’ve forgotten the legal distance but you will see the how-to-vote folks standing away from the entrance to the booth and possibly a line drawn on the ground, depending on the booth.) The Libs and Family First people handing out the how-to-vote cards can be a bit pushy but you don’t have to accept any handouts that you do not wish to accept, and if you make a mistake on your ballot papers you can return them to the desk from where you got them and get new ones.

  2. z

    the crises is that entitled to vote while abandon oneself, no blame afterward

  3. Kaye Lee

    If you want to be viewed as a mature informed voter could I suggest you stop using phrases like “All the old, tired, forty-somethings, who cry about having to put on pants to go and vote” and “old timey, intellectually stunted, stay at home parents” and “their followers drooling in retirement homes.”

    You want someone to blame? You deride those people who ask you to make a difference?

    How about you think about what needs changing and come up with some suggestions on how to do that.

    Not all young people are ill-informed, selfish know-it-alls – and not all people over 40 smell. I would also ask you to show some compassion. My mother has Alzheimers and is in a nursing home. I find your depiction heartless.

  4. Freethinker

    IMO if not get involved and do the homework to make an educated vote, then do not complain.
    I am politically active or at the very least very well informed since I was 15, so that is 55 years ago and do not identifying myself with the the points made by the author of the above article.
    By the age of 18 he should be well informed and eager to be part of a change.

  5. Michael Taylor

    Whose fault is it? The people who voted Liberal (which of course they are entitled to do) without making informed choices, and the hundreds of thousands of young people who didn’t bother to vote. By not doing so, they showed lack of responsibility and probably deserve what they ended up with. Tough, I know. But they could have made a difference had they bothered.

    Having said that, I’m more than pleased to hear recently that there has been a large increase in the number of people who enrolled this year as compared to 2013.

  6. guest

    Oliver Clarke, you have a jaundiced view of other people. But you allow that “everyone, the young included, form their own political ideas…”

    I am not sure you realise how difficult it is to form one’s own ideas, given the flood of opinions surrounding all of us. How many people actually try to rationally analyse all the claims, promises, criticisms, propaganda tweets etc filling the airwaves.

    With all this talk about democracy, I wonder how well it works. So I went to the ‘Ancient History Encyclopedia’ and an article by Mark Cartwright.

    Firstly, bad decisions made in the name of democracy in ancient Greece: for examples, the execution of six generals after they actually won the battle of Arginousai in 406 BCE; and the death sentence given to the philosopher Socrates in 399 BCE.

    So the young voted in ancient Athens – 18 yr old males and older, not females.

    “Citizens probably accounted for 10-20% of the polis population, and of these it has been estimated that only 3000 people actually participated in the politics. Of this group, perhaps as few as 100 citizens – the wealthiest, most influential, and the best speakers – dominated the political arena, both in front of the assembly and behind the scenes in private conspiratorial political meetings (xynomoria) and groups (hetaireiai).
    These groups had to meet secretly because although there was freedom of speech, persistent criticism of individuals and institutions could lead to accusations of conspiring tyranny and so lead to ostracism.”

    It is a scary picture of how ancient Greek democracy was conducted – and gives us some amazing parallels with our own democratic processes. It shows us that there is more to surface appearances – and too often we are making decisions on appearances defiled by secrecy and corruption in the hands of a few. Such is the foundation of our “own political ideas.”

  7. Matters Not

    Oliver is clearly somewhat younger than his claimed chronological age of 18 years. ? ? ?

  8. king1394

    Handing out at the Pre-Poll in Bowral NSW. I’m amazed at the number of young people in private school uniforms coming in with parents who shepherd them straight to the Liberal Party worker to get their how-to-vote information. I guess they know who helps with the private school fees. Hopefully they’ll grow up in a few years’ time when they have more real world experience

  9. zue

    Oliver, in every age group there are some who bother to inform themselves about political issues, and some who do not. Only those who make an effort to inform themselves can be considered responsible contributors to a democracy. There are many who complacently believe that our democracy is so robust that it will continue to deliver the best possible future for Australia regardless of which way people vote. These people are wrong. There are many who argue that all politicians are the same, or that the only difference is a difference of manner or appearance – one politician is charming or statesmanlike, another is awkward; one politician is athletic, another has red hair. Anyone who thinks that such things should be a focus of political commentary is just being lazy. Politicians are not all the same. They are as diverse as young people or middle-aged people or old people.

    If you want to make a responsible contribution to the future of your country, try the following:
    – Start with the assumption that you know nothing.
    – Abandon any assumption that you are entitled to a better life than anyone else.
    – Adopt an explicit value system, e.g. equal opportunity is a good thing; nobody has the right to destroy somebody else’s future, etc. Be clear with yourself about what you have chosen to value, and what difference that will make to your political choices (and the kind of person you are)
    – Read widely to find out what the most pressing challenges confronting Australia and the global community are. Some that might come up in your reading are climate change, the politics of fossil fuels, the impact of war, the impact of economic austerity, the impact of entrenched distributions of advantage and disadvantage, injustice in the distribution of power, the action of vested interests, the power of multi-nationals, and so on.
    – Seek to understand Australia’s position within the global community, and how we are regarded by other nations.
    – Seek to understand the opportunities and challenges that face us, and what we need to do to make sure Australians are able to rise to any difficulty that confronts them. Think about what makes people resilient, and what makes them broken.
    – Listen, really listen, to political debates – not just the main party leaders but the leaders of other groups, and also, very importantly, to all members of the cabinet and shadow cabinet. Make careful judgments about where their hearts are, and what their capabilities are.

    Young people may be just as diverse as older people, but in Australia this generation of young people has had better access to education and information than any previous generation. If you want a good future – and these days it is a global future, not just a national or a personal one – then you’ll have to make more of an effort than you did in the piece above.

  10. Oliver P. Clarke

    Hello angry comment-ers, Oliver here.

    I see you’re all angry at me, which is fine, it means the article is actually getting something out there. But, I think a lot of you are angry for the wrong reason, or are doing exactly what I was angry about in the article. So I feel I need to address it.

    I do NOT blame older generations for this dismal government. I was expressing a dissatisfaction that SOME older people feel the need to thrust their political ideas down my throat, as some of you are actually doing now.

    Furthermore, someone is saying this article is misinformed because I am 18 (they think younger for some reason). That’s exactly what I was upset about in the article, people thinking just because a voter is young they CANT POSSIBLY have a good political judgement, then shoving yours in my face. And thank you, I am jaundiced, but why shouldn’t I be in such a terrible world?

    So it’s no ones FAULT, I am not saying ALL older people are irritating, I am not saying younger people are superior. Don’t be pissed at me getting an article voicing my opinions published, be angry at those who don’t vote, be angry at Justin Bieber smiling in a goddam mug shot, or the shockingly large amount of people who still don’t believe in global warming, be angry at something worthwhile and don’t say I’m not educated or ready to publish this, because I did.

    Also, check out my website, it’s got stuff you guys would love!!!!!

  11. Gangey1959

    Oliver. You deride us for being as experienced (you call it old) as we are. Don’t worry sunshine, you’ll get here.
    If I could have another go at 18-21………
    How about having to put up with the constant stream of violent uncaring drug and alcohol crazed youth on the news every night creating havoc, or defacing public and private property because you are bored, or whatever else bullshit excuse you can dream up
    There is a concept of letting people drive, and vote at 16. Great idea. As long as you are taught properly first, and I don’t mean who to vote for, I mean WHY it is important that you know WHAT THE EFF YOU ARE DOING AND WHY YOU ARE DOING IT.
    That responsibility falls on US.
    YOU are better informed, have better communication, better access to the world that I/we ever did, and yet you still whine about either having to do your friggin’ job as a citizen, or the result when you don’t.
    Ignoring all of what you have, which we created by the way, falls on YOU
    So whose fault is it ?
    Everyone’s.

    Dumbarse.

  12. John

    If you want your vote to count take your own pen, don’t use a pencil.

  13. Athena

    “If you want your vote to count take your own pen, don’t use a pencil.”

    What’s with all the scare-mongering about using pencils in this campaign? There are scrutineers present when the votes are counted. I read an article by Antony Green yesterday about all the considerations re: validity of votes when people draw all over their ballot papers. There seems to be an extraordinary amount of effort to accept votes from immature people who cannot follow simple instructions to cast their vote. We have ample opportunity to cast our vote. We’re not required to travel many miles to a polling booth with no way of getting there. We don’t have to lose a day’s pay to wait for hours in a queue so we can vote. We don’t have less polling booths in the areas where the population is likely to vote against the current incumbents. I think the disrespect shown to the AEC staff by implying that they will erase and alter votes is unwarranted.

  14. jimhaz

    [I do NOT blame older generations for this dismal government]

    We will in time though and I already do.

    I would like over 60’s voting to be made optional. Don’t bother changing the constitution in the short term – just do it by no fines and promulgate that as policy. Of course the LNP would never agree to such a situation.

  15. Athena

    The LNP wants optional voting. They know that those most likely to not vote are left-leaning voters.

  16. Ms June abbott

    Sadly, Oliver, your insulting and derogatory language seriously undermines your intended “message”. If you are a regular reader of TheAIMN you will be aware many (if not most) contributors/commentators here hold high hopes for our new voters effecting positive change to our broken political system. Kudos to you for your opinion piece and thinking for yourself. By all means maintain the rage you evidently feel; you are in good company here. Might I suggest directing that rage towards the politicians who have brought this country to its knees.

    Best wishes to you on your first formal political outing.

  17. wam

    the libs have been able to lie sincerely since ming formed them. labor has failed ,in both exposing the lies before the election and in exposing the liar.in recent tomes it has been very difficult for labor because the questions have been instituted by the libs who exploit the fact that slogans are simple but their counter is complex.
    Labor is sadly like the girls at school who stereotype themselves as not mathematical or scientific or to have trade skills. Absolute crap but is easier to comply than prove the lie.
    I am worth two old and tired 40 somethings and have seen great political leaders wither on the vine without taking their chance or, like norman, beaten by a chip in or a lie.
    Shorten in beaconsfield days top drawer in gillard days top man but when he fell prey to the lemon, fitzgibbon and a couple of worried young guns he crashed and has never recovered. He is a trier but no longer a winner. It is possible that the workers will put medicare forward but that is remote(not hopeless when we remember Qld)

  18. nurses1968

    The Idea of optional preferential is sound.
    I can choose who I vote for and who not to and I fail to see why the Greens would not be fully supportive as that is what they and the LNP got their heads together and foisted a form of on us in the Senate.You can’t have it both ways

  19. Athena

    nurses1968, what has optional voting got to do with the Greens? Jimhaz said the LNP would never go for optional voting. They’re actually trying to introduce it because it benefits them. How am I trying to have it both ways? I never actually stated my opinion of optional voting.

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  21. corvus boreus

    Athena (4:48)
    Ink (from a ball point pen) permeates the paper, whereas graphite (from pencil) merely powders the surface.
    Ink remains more legible after mishaps (eg transit of papers causing smudging), and an illegible vote is an invalid vote.
    I am taking a biro on polling day.

  22. Kaye Lee

    Oliver,

    “I see you’re all angry at me”

    Not at all. You write well and I would like to see you continue but less defensively. I believe you will grow in your empathy and compassion because you DO think. You also need to be able to consider critical comments and if they have merit. The comment from zue was an excellent contribution IMO.

    “I am jaundiced, but why shouldn’t I be in such a terrible world,”

    There are certainly things we need to improve – that will always be the case – but it is also a wonderful world. I am 58 and look back on a life filled with wonder and forwards to a lot more fun and the time to do more to help others.

    “Don’t be pissed at me getting an article voicing my opinions published”

    As others have said, most people here have been crying out to hear from our youth. Work with us, not against us. Be part of the solution.

    And take joy in the amazing things that your generation are accomplishing. I am excited about the future.

  23. Matters Not

    Oliver, here’s two ‘concepts, you may wish to consider. Both refer to ‘age’. Firstly, there’s ‘chronological’ age which is verifiable via your birth certificate. You say it’s 18. Fair enough. No evidence to the contrary.

    Secondly, there is the concept of ‘mental’ age. And without getting too technical, one’s mental age can lag, equate or even surpass one’s chronological age. As always, you (and particularly your ego) will choose which descriptor fits you best. And I will have a small wager, that your choice won’t be widely shared.

    But never mind. I am sure you will be the first to agree that your ‘thinking’ changed over the years gone by. And if it doesn’t change over the coming years, your mental age will never catch up to your chronological age. Which would be a great pity. For you.

    If you are looking for an example of a ‘lifelong lager’ look no further than Abbott.

  24. Matters Not

    Or you could give away using the ‘lager’ word (beer related) in your writings and try using ‘lagger’ instead, but better still try ‘laggard’. (Always ‘proof read’ before posting.)

    Not that I want to give you advice.

  25. Flogga

    Not sure that’s why they offer you a lollipop Oliver

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