Page last updated at 11:31 GMT, Tuesday, 29 April 2008 12:31 UK

'I'm just not interested in voting'

Stephen Potts
Stephen Potts said neither he nor his friends would vote in the local election

It is a democratic right for which people across the world have fought, yet in the 2007 local elections only 38% of England's population cast their votes.

The lowest turnout in England was in the Liverpool Central ward, where just 11.8% of people chose to vote.

So why did so many people there fail to exercise their democratic right?

Liverpool City Council said the high proportion of students in the area was one reason for the low turnout.

Elections manager David Kidger said: "A lot of students live in the central ward - they make up 60% of the population.

"The students are entitled to vote but I think they see their role more at home.

"We also have quite a large Chinese Mandarin population, many of whom are entitled to vote but don't. These two factors in themselves reduce the probability of the electorate voting."

Stephen Potts, an 18-year-old quantity surveying student at Liverpool John Moores University, is one of those who will not be casting a vote in Thursday's elections.

Mr Potts, from County Tyrone in Northern Ireland, said: "I'm just not really that interested in it.

"Students generally are not really interested in politics, everyone seems to be too lazy.

"I've got a friend studying politics, I don't think even he bothers with it.

"We got the forms through for postal voting but everyone ignored them, I just saw them sitting on the microwave.

Gemma Clark
Gemma Clark said people could not complain if they had not voted

"I wouldn't know anything about it. There are two guys from Liverpool in my flat but I don't think they really care about voting either."

Adam Murkin, a first-year engineering student at the university, said he will not be voting either.

The 19-year-old from Suffolk said: "I vote at home but I'm not really interested in voting here.

"I would probably only worry about voting at home if I was there at the time. I don't think it is on their [students'] minds, they've got a lot of things on so they haven't got time to vote."

But Gemma Clark, 20, said she would be casting a vote in Liverpool on Thursday.

The second-year nursing student from Macclesfield said: "People can't complain about who is in charge if they haven't bothered.

"If you vote at least you have done your bit and you have tried."

Kathleen Fanning, 62, has lived in the central ward all her life and has cast her vote in every local and general election.

Mrs Fanning, of St Stephens Place, said: "A lot of people don't bother because they feel they've been let down by certain things round here, like housing and jobs.

"I think it is your duty to vote, it could be the one which makes the difference."

Liverpool's central ward
Liverpool's central ward had the lowest turnout in England in the 2007 elections

Liverpool City Council has taken steps this year to encourage more people to take part in the elections.

Mr Kidger said he hoped to see turnout increase to between 20% and 30%.

He said: "This year the council has written to all students asking them to make sure they are registered, and we have sent postal vote application forms to all of the students.

"We did a road show in the area, and we have had a van driving around all five of the local authorities in Merseyside for the past few weeks with information about voting and polling stations."

Mr Kidger said the authority had also conducted a Black, Minority Ethnic (BME) registration campaign, with a certain degree of success.

He said: "We also now have interpreters in polling stations to make it easier for our staff and for the people voting.

"Obviously, once you are registered, you are more likely to be involved and at least realise you are entitled to vote.

"It is a basic human right. But of course, in a democracy, people have also got a right not to vote."

Dr Neil Gavin, political scientist and senior lecturer at Liverpool University, said factors such as employment, standards of education and age of population in areas had an influence on voter turnout.

"Also, if the election is seen as a foregone conclusion, that is likely to make a difference," he said.

Dr Gavin said local and European elections also attracted a lower turnout than General Elections.

"They are known as second order elections. People don't view them as being as important as the General Election.

"That drops the general level of interest across the board."

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  Councillors Councils
Party +/- Total +/- Total
CON 257 3155 12 65
LAB -334 2365 -9 18
LD 33 1804 1 12
PC 31 205 -1 0
OTH 10 898 0 0
NOC - - -3 64
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Johnson CON 1,168,738
Livingstone LAB 1,028,966
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Berry GRN 409,101

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Party Constit' Top-up Total seats
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LAB 6 2 8
LD 0 3 3
GRN 0 2 2
BNP 0 1 1

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