Students encouraged to register to vote

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Election ballot box

Election ballot box. Pic by Liam Deveney © JMU Journalism

Students in Liverpool were being encouraged to sign up to vote ahead of the General Election at the National Voter Registration Day this week.

Some 18,000 young voters have been taken off the electoral register this year after the government changed the way people register to vote, meaning thousands of students and young people were taken off the register.

Whereas previously students living in halls of residence were automatically placed on the electoral register by their landlord now changes last December mean that around 18,000 students in Liverpool have come off the register. An estimated  30,000 more people across the city will be taken off by next year.

The changes have been criticised by Labour councillor Nick Small, who said: “I think the Electoral Commission, who brought in these rules, are so out of touch that they don’t understand the consequences of what they’ve done and how difficult they’ve made it for student’s to vote. It’s not good for democracy and it doesn’t represent society as a whole.”

They’ll now be required to enroll on the new system of Individual Electoral Register (IER) to vote on 7th May. Liverpool City Council has been working with Students’ Unions across the city this week in a bid to ensure students register.

Liverpool SU has also been providing free pizza at ‘registration stations’ across university campuses in the city to encourage students to get on the register.

Hannah Baker, President of Liverpool Hope SU, said it was important to get on the register so students could have their say about how the country is run.

© Bite the Ballot

© Bite the Ballot

She said: “We would really encourage students to stand up and have a voice. Politicians will take notice of students and provide them with the services they want and need.

“The amount of people who have registered in the last week has really begun to pick up because of our campaign. Once politicians see the rise of students registering to vote in the general election, they will then begin to take notice.”

As the 18-24-year-old age demographic traditionally suffers from a poor turnout at the General Election, National Voter Registration Day (NVRD) encourages as many young voters as possible to vote in the democratic process.

Small, who is the city council’s Cabinet Member for Employment and Skills, said the most important thing is that students turn up and vote.

He said: “The more students who vote, the more voices are heard. We’ve had EMA abolished and tuition fees have trebled. We’ve had threats to disabled student’s allowance over the past few months and all of this happens to young people because fewer students are voting.

“This election will be the most uncertain election in a generation and I think students can have a real influence in the result of the election in May. I would encourage them to exercise their democratic rights and ensure their voice is heard.

Anyone over 16 who wishes to register online should go here.

About Lydia Morris, JMU Journalism