Make sure your voice is heard – register to vote by 22 May
With Becky Gittins, Warwick SU Democracy & Development Officer, I’m sharing a call to action to students, at my University, Warwick, and across the UK: register to vote by Monday 22 May to make your voice heard in the General Election.
Students occupy what can often be a precarious position in politics. Despite falling under the same generic label of 'student', this is an extremely diverse group made up of many demographics, nationalities, motivations and desires. Students do not always choose the same route to making their voices heard, nor do they always co-ordinate efforts. Being at University for a fixed period of time means they are also a transient population in the region or city where they’re studying. There are also many misconceptions around who is eligible to vote, and frequent misunderstandings around voter registration processes. There is a wealth of guidance online, but engaging in elections, and voting itself, is not an obvious, straightforward experience for many members of this community. When you consider that 75% of 18-24 year-olds voted to remain in the EU, there could well be feeling within this generation that voting also doesn’t actually get you what you want, or at least that voting doesn’t impact what happens in the end.
But. This generation can have impact. And that is turnout. Not only do students represent a significant proportion of local constituencies, but an increase of just 30% in the 18-24 vote could be enough to influence the entire General Election. If our 18-24 year olds use their vote, they become a priority for politicians and, indeed, a key interest group in national decision-making. This generation can play an active role in the decisions that they care about and that affect them.
At Warwick, the University and Students’ Union share a belief in the power of students to be active participants in our democracy, and key players in the decision-making processes of our communities, our region and our country. From the new academic year, we will enable our eligible students to register to vote as part of their University enrolment process. This will overcome the impact of changes to Individual Voter Registration made in 2014 which wiped thousands of students off the electoral register overnight. It will also make it easier, quicker, simpler to register to vote. We genuinely hope this step will help encourage our students to use their vote.
Until then, students need to register to vote the old-fashioned way. Please do. The decisions taken this June will have far-reaching implications. Our student community has the power and knowledge to influence decisions and should play its part in our future. The biggest threat to the strength of that generation is not realising the power it has in the first place.
For the upcoming General Election on 8 June, the deadline to register to vote is Monday 22 May. Please do.
Becky and Stuart
More information on how to register and eligibility can be found on MyWarwick