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Meet the Brunel 3rd year on a mission to get you politically engaged

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Last week we spoke to Rachael Farrington, founder of Voting Counts, about her website and the ways it allows young voters to engage in the politics around them.

Rachael is a final year politics student at Brunel University, graduating this summer. Having launched Voting Counts whilst in sixth form, she explains that the initial challenges she faced included becoming a self-taught website designer and struggling with different political parties and news outlets, whom she had to convince "to take [her] seriously”.

Rachael created Voting Counts because “My friends were constantly asking me whom they should vote for, but as a politically active person my answer was always pretty biased.”

She had the idea of providing an online resource where undecided young voters could seek information in an unbiased way, rather than basing important decisions on “one-sided opinion from friends, family and the media."

For a referendums such as last year's on leaving the European Union, Voting Counts offered reasons to vote for both sides, fact-checked by an EU politics academic.

In an age when false information can be disseminated and propagated, Rachael's clear aim is to ensure Voting Counts was "giving people accurate information”.

Rachael believes that the reason young people may be politically disengaged often lies in how easy it is to be out of the loop and “fall into the habit of not voting”. She thinks a lot of young people haven’t yet realised how politics affects them personally, meaning voting isn't a priority.

What advice can she offer to change that?

“Whatever issue it is that you care about is influenced by politics in some way," Rachael says, "so you should at least vote so that you have a say in making sure that issue is dealt with in a way you see fit.”

Whether it’s education, healthcare, or jobs in your local community there is always something to be done. This is where Voting Counts comes in, by helping young people understand why their vote counts, and also offering all the information they need to go out and vote.

Despite the internet facilitating our access to information, Rachael thinks that unless someone is actively looking for resources they don’t come very easily. Luckily with Voting Counts people from all age brackets are able to get their hands on these essential resources.

Of course, as is clear the website itself, there are ways to get involved in politics other than voting - which, according to Rachael, is simply the easiest thing to do. Aside from giving a guide to political parties and a section on learning why voting is important, Voting Counts also offers alternative ways to be politically active.

As far as covering current events, the site offers articles including a comparison of Hard/Soft Brexit, putting its focus mainly on upcoming elections. Recently, a blog series seeking to “understand the connection between the political world and our everyday lives” was begun.

Rachael hopes that by reading blogs written by young adults readers will discover why political engagement matters, to “communities on a local and national level”. In the future, she hopes to see political education in the National Curriculum.

With that in mind, her team is currently creating TeachPolitics, a website where "teachers can download lesson plans and resources to help them teach politics to pupils of any age." Rachael envisions creating resources for teachers to use "regardless of knowledge or experience in politics."

Clearly, Rachael is setting an excellent example of engaged politics for young people in the UK, and bringing light to a hugely important issue. If there are two things to take from Voting Counts, it is go out and vote - and to make sure you're involved in political decisions in any way you can. 

Find out more about Voting Counts here or on Twitter @VotingCountsUK

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