Monday 02-02-2015 - 11:17
This is a guest blog by Wesley Hudson, President at Worcester Students’ Union.
Since 1979, the city of Worcester, despite many people not even knowing we exist, has always had a key role in politics, any political party that has won over Worcester has always gone on to win the General Election. Some of you may wonder why this may be, one of the main reasons is the ‘Worcester Women’, it is a median of voter, a working class woman who is in her early 20’s to mid-30’s, who cares about quality of life and not so much about politics. As a university who has 63 per cent mature students and a university who also has 61 per cent female students, this fits the bill of the ‘Worcester Woman.’ With that on board, we decided that we could continue the tradition but try and alter it so that in a few years time it would be known as the ‘Worcester Student.’
Our first step was to encourage Students to actually register to vote, we put together a small working group in early December made up of union staff and students. We contacted and had regular meetings with our local electoral services officer at Worcester City Council. She was more than happy to help us try and encourage students to vote. With her on board, we decided that we would try and do a test run of National Voter Registration Day to try and maximise our reach to students.
Before we started, we asked ourselves ‘why should students vote?’ It is a question that I get every time I mention the General Election. We came up with a number of different reasons how voting in the General Election could benefit students. We put these into poster forms (very similar to the NUS ones, I know), and plastered them everywhere, and I mean everywhere; walls, windows, doors, urinals, I can’t even go to the toilet without the face of our Vice Presidents looking at me!
We invited the local electoral services officer to set up a stall in the busiest place in our union on Wednesday 14 January. Whilst she and her colleague sat at the stall talking to approaching students, I imagine it was the freebies that caught their attention. Myself and a team of keen volunteers headed to the streets and meeting places on our campus to try and encourage as many students to register as possible.
The day was quite successful. Between us we managed to register a large number of people; although I spoke to even more of our students I was very pleased to hear that a lot of them had already registered themselves. We advertised this heavily to our international students who are eligible to vote, explaining what a great opportunity this is to do whilst studying here and that the new political party will greatly affect future international students depending on who wins (we all know who I’m talking about).
We have had a lot of good publicity from the local press with Worcester News writing articles about us and we even had a visit from BBC Hereford and Worcester. We hope that this will encourage not just students but all young people to become politically aware.
We are going to do a very similar thing for the official National Voter Registration Day (Wednesday 4 February), making it bigger and more exciting by using the packs that we were sent by NUS. We have again invited our local electoral services officer to come and speak to students as I’m sure they would rather hear from someone different than myself. I really do recommend that those of you who are interested or keen on voter registration to get in contact with your local council and speak to your local electoral services officer.
After this we have planned to alter the campaign slightly, instead of encouraging students to register to vote it will be to get them to actually use their vote. We are in talks with the local council to try and get a polling booth set up on campus to make it easier for them to vote. I have set up meetings with our local MP candidates to discuss some issues that have arisen from the students I have spoken to and to discuss the new deal for the next generation. I am also inviting them all to a Hustings at the university so that students can meet the candidates and grill them for themselves.
I urge you all to try and encourage as many of your students as possible to register and vote in the General Election, it is so important that we make young people and our future generation more politically aware for years to come. Together we can make this the year of the student!