BrendaBrenda meets David Cameron to discuss EU referendum

Brenda Wong (Class of 2011) went to study Law at Warwick University in the UK after graduating from Shrewsbury. She now works for a company called Voxburner as External Communications Manager. Brenda represented Voxburner in a collaborative meeting with No. 10 Downing Street to encourage young people to vote. Read on for Brenda’s reflections on the afternoon:

It is surreal to see something you’re involved with receive so much press. I got to the office this morning and turned on my feed to jokey headlines reading “David Cameron is on Tinder… and you’ll never guess why”, or “David Cameron’s on Tinder and he wants to be matched with the EU”. Perhaps that’s what we need for the Brexit debate: a dash of levity.

Because there’s a reason why our Prime Minister is seeking the help of Facebook, Twitter, Google and other tech giants for the upcoming EU vote. In fact, there are seven million reasons.

Seven million unregistered voters. That’s where the numbers stood as Simon and I walked through the heavy doors into the meeting room. Here are a few more scary numbers: only 21% of 18-24-year-olds are “very interested”¹ in the EU debate, only 43% of 18-24 year-olds voted in the General Election² and up to four million young people in this demographic are still not on the electoral register³.

This is why the government is taking action. Selected delegates from the aforementioned tech giants were invited to a meeting at Downing Street to tackle this issue, especially as the 7th June voter registration deadline looms before us. It was an incredible sight, watching Tinder, LadBible, Uber and Deliveroo all provide their amazing knowledge and services to further a cause bigger than themselves: democracy.

Whether you’re backing a Brexit, or aiming to Remain, your opinions do not matter if you’re not registered to vote. As a 23-year-old young voter myself, the numbers unfolding in front of my eyes were alarming.

Here are three things we gathered from the meeting:

1. It only takes 2 minutes to register to vote, but many young people are currently unaware they need to do so

The Debrief timed it – it really does only take 2 minutes. The  biggest issue garnered from the meeting was that young people don’t realise they need to register before the 7th of June to be allowed to vote on the 23rd. Two hiccups Voxburner identified were the need for your National Insurance number to register, which many unregistered voters don’t know where to find, and the perception that registering to vote is a complicated process.

2. Out of the unregistered, the biggest demographics currently unrepresented in the electoral roll are young people, private renters, and people from BME communities.

Why this is remains difficult to pin down. Laziness? Lack of targeted marketing? Is the whole debate too dense and confusing to form a real opinion? The answer is unclear. However, these are the people who will be most affected by a potential ‘Brexit’.

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan has highlighted concerns over the job market for young people if we leave the EU; on the other hand, Vote Leave are concerned that remaining in the EU will force future generations to bear the ‘EU economic burden’.

“I would hate for people to wake up on June 24th and wish they’d done something, said Lucy Thomas, Deputy Director of Britain Stronger in Europe.

“If they don’t vote, we don’t just stay in automatically. It isn’t just a status quo – we could lose.”

3. It is not too late to shrink the huge ‘7 million’ number

There is a light at the end of the tunnel. Jokes about Tinder’s presence aside, the meeting is a clear sign that the government is taking this very seriously. Downing Street are opening themselves up to new, even offbeat ideas from the likes of people you’d never expect they’d approach.

Picture this. Uber utilising a pop-up notification post-car request, encouraging you to use your 3 minute wait time to register to vote. A new Facebook ‘reaction’ emoji popping up the eve of registration deadline, your timeline flooded with semi-smug screenshots of friends’ completed registration screen. An EU-referendum based Google Doodle, guaranteed to be picked up by at least 16 viral news sites. The upcoming EU vote brings about the unprecedented situation of these huge, powerful tech companies putting aside their differences for a worthy cause – and, corporate agendas aside, this can be nothing but good for solving the problem.

Not everyone can be, as Aaron Burr laments in hit musical Hamilton, “in the room where it happens.” Having been given access to the aforementioned room, it is my pleasure to say that there is hope yet for the unrepresented. If our Prime Minister cares enough to spend an afternoon of his precious time to focus on the voices of young people, this is a sign of better things to come. I believe it.-Brenda Wong (Class of 2011)

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