The winning essay from this year's One Young World essay competition, on how to give young people a voice in governmentby Dylan Kaplan / October 31, 2014 / Leave a comment
Young people can raise their voice in government through two steps. The first step is to permit online electronic voting for mayor from anywhere. The second step is for mayors to support the creation of online youth congresses.
Mayors are becoming some of the most innovative, popular, and powerful officials throughout the world. In the 19th century, one in thirty American citizens lived in cities. Today, that figure is almost one in two. In Latin America and Europe almost four people for every five now live in urban areas. Mayors are often more popular than national figures by wide margins and are controlling budgets comparable to that of small countries in megacities such as Istanbul, Dhaka, and Sao Paulo.
Electronic voting from anywhere will increase youth participation in elections and will force politicians to listen to voices from the youth to win youth votes. People pay their bills and transfer sensitive bank account information on their smartphones so clearly people could also use their smartphones to vote in mayoral elections. If the model works in mayoral elections the model could then be applied to national elections thereby increasing youth representation in government.
The second step is for mayors to support the formation of online youth congresses. Throughout the world, universities encourage their students to participate in student government. The student government is taken seriously, has elections and bylaws, and represents the voice of students to the university administration.
This university student government model should be applied to online youth congresses. For example, if you live in Mumbai, are 16 years old and want your age group to have more representation in government you could run to be an online Mumbai Senator for all 16 year olds living within the city. You can campaign online or however you see fit to win votes. Voting occurs electronically and if you secure the most votes you win a seat representing your age group in the online youth congress.
The congress can choose to meet as frequently as desired but is guaranteed a one hour weekly Skype session with the mayor of the city. During the Skype sessions each youth senator is able to represent the concerns of their constituents directly to the mayor. The online youth congress can even permit youth who aren’t of voting age to run for seats in the youth congress. Just because you can’t vote doesn’t mean you don’t want your voice heard.
The congress will only meet online, minimizing geographic and socio-economic barriers to participating in the youth congress. If you don’t have access to a computer with Internet you can apply via mail to the mayor’s office to explore ways you can gain access to one. If the online youth congress works in the mayoral level the online youth congresses could be expanded to the national level thereby increasing the voices of youth in governments around the world.