Friday 05-02-2016 - 10:33
Today is National Voter Registration Day. Despite there not being a general election until 2020 - there are local, mayoral and assembly elections across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland coming up - as well as a referendum on the UKs membership of the EU. So, it's more important than ever that students make sure they're registered.
In late 2015 the government made changes to the way in which you register to vote, a move that has disproportionately affected students.
Previously, a family member or your university could register you. But now the Individual Electoral Registration (IER) has been introduced and it means you have to do it yourself.
New research has found that this has led to an estimated 800,000 people dropping off the electoral register overnight.
The regions most affected by these changes have been those with big student populations. Figures from December show that Canterbury has seen a 13 per cent fall in voters whilst Cambridge and Dundee West have both lost 11 per cent of their electorate.
NUS National President Megan Dunn said: “There was a severe lack of publicity and the government made no effort to raise awareness of the changes. Even the Electoral Commission raised concerns about how quickly the IER was implemented. It warned that without a significant publicity drive, the government was risking up to 1.9million people disappearing off the register.
“It was only after this the government bothered to run a voter registration drive. For the most part it was left up to NUS and other parties to call on students to register to vote. But there was only so much we could do.”
Megan adds: “The government has claimed the changes were put in place to make the register more accurate and stop fraud and errors. But about one in ten people were not automatically transferred to the new list of voters. This seems like a pretty big error to me. Some of these people may not even know their vote has been taken away from them. If you're not on the electoral register you can face an £80 fine, but it's even more alarming that 800,000 voices won't be heard in upcoming elections.”
Why is National Voter Registration Day important?
Like we’ve seen on far too many occasions now, the government have pushed this change through as quietly as possible.
With just months to go before local, mayoral and assembly elections across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland - as well as an upcoming EU referendum - NUS believes there is a real threat that students are being silenced. That’s why we’re urging students to make sure they’re on the electoral register so that students' views are back on the political agenda.
It's not too late to make your voice heard and it takes just a few minutes - register online at gov.uk/register-to-vote.
Once you’ve registered, encourage your friends and family to join you by using the #GenerationVote and #NVRD hashtags on social media!
Is your students’ union is running a voter registration drive? If so, we want to hear from you. Send us information about what you’ve done, images and feedback to email@example.com.