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Why is voting important?

The Bill of Rights in South Africa’s pioneering Constitution grants all citizens aged 18 and older the right to vote, but the question often asked is whether voting will really make a difference.

Of course, it does! Voting gives you an opportunity to be part of decision-making that affects your life and the future of our country. If you don't vote, others will make the decisions for you.

History shows that democracies in danger of losing their freedom register frighteningly low voter turnouts. In thriving democracies, people vote in large numbers and the people's voice remains supreme.

So here are our top reasons why you should vote:

1. Because you can! You may take your right to vote and all other rights in our constitution for granted, but 25 years ago most of the people in our country were not allowed to vote. Many of them were arrested and jailed for demanding this most basic human right. Others were tortured and killed. Because of their sacrifice, today you can vote simply by presenting yourself at a voting station with your ID during a registration event that puts you on the voters' roll for life, and lets you vote in every future general and by-election in your area.

2. Elections have consequences You have the power to decide on the quality of life you want for yourself and your community, and even future generations. Voting is your chance to stand up for the issues you care about. This is your life: take the time to help decide what's best. Voting - rather than just venting on social media or protesting – is the best way to make your voice heard and make a positive input on the issues that concern you.

3. Not voting is giving up your voice Elections are decided by the people who go out and vote. If you don't vote, someone else will make the decision for you. If you don't vote you get stuck with other people's choices – and you can't even complain about it because you let it happen! By participating in the electoral process as a voter, you get a say in how things are done for the next five years. Your power is in your vote.

4. It's your money You pay taxes (even when you just buy a loaf of bread), but do you know how that money is being spent? Most people don't. Voting is your chance to choose how your taxes are spent – such as funding for social services, healthcare, and schooling.

5. Democracy needs you! Democracy only works if people participate. That sounds obvious, but unless people actively participate in the process, democracy doesn't work. It takes constant renewal among citizens to make democracy flourish.

6. Voting is an opportunity for change If you're thinking that right now you've got better things to do with your time and you'll vote next time, think again! Five years is a long time to be stuck with something that you don't want or doesn't work. Just imagine what it would be like to be stuck with the same cellphone for five years, especially one with limited features. Just think how many cellphone upgrades you are going to get before you get the chance to upgrade your government!

7. Our generation knows best Technology and connectivity mean that our generation is probably the best informed and equipped to vote in South Africa's history. Social media and the internet is giving us access to information which previous generations of voters didn't have. You are becoming the experts ahead of your parents and grandparents. Use that expertise to make sure our country heads in the right direction!

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