Extract

On the eve of SA’s sixth democratic elections on May 8, thousands of young people took to Twitter to state reasons for why they had no intention of casting their votes. They used the hashtag #IWantToVoteBut.

The trending topic at the time of the elections provides some insight into why young people opted out of casting their vote. At the time, pollsters and commentators were already touting the power of the youth (people under 29 made up 21% of eligible voters) as well as the threat of non-participation.

The Electoral Commission of SA has revealed that 9-million people eligible to vote in May were not registered to vote. Of these about 6-million were young people. Alarmingly, less than 20% of eligible first-time voters (those who turned 18 since the last national election) registered to vote. The election was ultimately held with the lowest voter turnout since 1994.

Looking at the trends over the last few years, there has been a systematic decrease in youth participation in elections. Does this reflect youth apathy or lack of confidence in the system of democracy to meet their needs?

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