The student vote matters. Yet with less than four weeks until the general election, many students still aren’t registered to vote. Some students simply don’t know how voter registration works. However, others are unclear about why their vote is so important. For students in particular, the question of voting can get complicated, especially if they split their lives between two constituencies – home and university. Does this sound like you? if so – then read on. Wordsmiths can’t tell you who to vote for, but we can explain why it’s important for students to vote. We’ll also explain how students can register to vote.
How General Elections work in the UK
The country is divided into 650 constituencies, and each constituency elects one MP to represent them in the Westminster Parliament. The party with the most MPs forms a government, and their party leader becomes the Prime Minister. They can either govern alone (if they have an overall majority), or in a coalition with another party. Unlike the 2018 European Parliament elections, the elections for the Westminster Parliament use a “first past the post” system. In this system, the candidate with the most votes in each constituency wins the seat. Therefore, votes for other candidates are effectively disregarded. This is why re-counts sometimes happen in constituencies where the result is extremely close.
Why the student vote matters
For many people aged under 21, December will mark their first chance to vote in a general election. In fact, those in the 18-25 age group have seen a big increase in voter registrations – with more than 200,000 joining the electoral register since the upcoming election was announced.
Now, cynics may say that political parties view the student vote merely as an untapped resource for boosting their numbers. Certainly, rates of voter registration and turnout amongst young people have been historically poor. Nonetheless, the newly-elected government will shape the way that our economy and society functions for the next five years. And remember – today’s young voters are the workforce of the future – some have already entered the workplace since the last election. Student voters will go on to run businesses, pay taxes, buy houses, and raise families. So clearly, even though many of the issues discussed in the election campaign may not feel relevant to you now, they will be in the future. This, ultimately, is why the student vote matters.
Why students should vote
Fundamentally, voting gives students and young people the chance to have their say on the issues that matter to them. These might be local issues, or wider issues such as Brexit, student debt, or the environment. Elections are a keystone of democracy, and they enable the public to choose who will represent their community on the national stage.
There are are also other, less obvious reasons why students should vote. For example, registering to vote means that you are entered onto the electoral roll (or register) – which can help improve your credit score. How does that work? Well – banks and other lenders use the full electoral roll to run background checks when they calculate your credit score. Clearly, registering to vote can make it easier to borrow money, or qualify for a mortgage. It could also mean you get a better repayment rate. This will definitely be important once you leave university, so think ahead.
However, a recent study by the Electoral Commission showed that only 71% of people aged 18-34 are correctly registered to vote. Students and recent graduates – who may have frequent or recent changes of address, are especially vulnerable to being incorrectly registered. If you can’t vote, you can’t have your say. So, read on for our handy guide on how to register to vote.
When is the General Election?
The general election is on Thursday 12th December 2019.
When is the deadline for voting registration?
The deadline for voter registration is 26th November 2019. If you want to vote by post, you must apply by 5pm on 26 November to receive your voting pack (see below).
Where do I register to vote?
You can register to vote on the Gov.UK website. The process takes about five minutes. You’ll need your National Insurance (NI) number, date of birth, and address. The process takes about five minutes. You can also register by post. Don’t worry – you can still register without your NI number – you just need to explain why you don’t have it and provide a different form of ID.
You can be registered to vote at more than one address. This means you can register to vote at your university address even if you’ve previously registered to vote at your parent’s address, and vice versa. Despite this, it’s illegal to vote more than once, so you need to decide where to vote: home or university.
How can I check if I’m already registered?
Contact your local electoral registration office (ERO) to check if you’re already registered to vote. They hold the electoral register listing the names and addresses of eligible voters in the area. The contact details for your ERO can be found on the Electoral Commission’s website.
Don’t forget to vote.
Registration is not the same as actually voting. Your vote won’t count if you don’t cast it, so make time to vote on 12th December!! You can vote in person on 12th December at your local polling station – this will be named on your poll card. Most polling stations are open from 7am until 10pm. You can also vote by post, or by proxy (under certain conditions).
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