Warwick Vice-Chancellor Stuart Croft and Becky Gittins, the SU’s Democracy and Development Officer, have shared a “call to action,” urging students to register to vote in the upcoming elections before the deadline next Monday.
The call, shared on the Vice-Chancellor’s blog, commented that “there are also many misconceptions around who is eligible to vote, and frequent misunderstandings around voter registration processes.”
“When you consider that 75 percent 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 percent 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.”
The blog post added that, in response of the Individual Electoral Registration (IER), which “wiped thousands of students off the electoral register overnight,” starting from the next academic year, students will have the option to register to vote as part of the University enrolment process.
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.
Stuart Croft and Becky Gittins
The IER, which saw a move from lead tenants or parents registering an entire household to individual registration in 2014, also prevented universities from registering students automatically. This has been cited as a cause for thousands of voters failing to register in the last General Election.
The Electoral Reform Society (ERS) reported that that the IER has led to a “significant fall” in young people on the electoral roll, as well as warning of a “voter registration time bomb.” The number of school leavers registering to vote has fallen by over a quarter since 2015.
ERS Chief Executive Katie Ghose said: “All the evidence shows that voting is habitual. If you start young, you’ll vote for life. Today’s findings suggest not enough is being done to ensure Britain’s young people are on the electoral roll.”
“Whether it’s improving citizenship education, or trialling same-day registration, there is plenty that can be done to revitalise our democratic processes. Whatever the case, we need action – or we risk losing a whole generation of voters.”
A Guardian article from the last General Election listed Warwick as the UK’s number one most powerful university with regards to influencing the voting results. While Warwick has a student population of 30,000, they are broadly spread across three constituencies.
While the main campus is mostly located inside Coventry South, residents from Cryfield, Heronbank, Lakeside, Redfern and Sherbourne register in Kenilworth and Southam, whose sitting MP is Jeremy Wright (Conservative). Wright won the last two General Elections with a comfortable majority, securing more than fifty percent of the votes out of a turnout of over 48,000.
All the evidence shows that voting is habitual. If you start young, you’ll vote for life.
Coventry South is represented by Labour’s Jim Cunningham, who has kept the seat since 1997. In the last General Election, he won against Conservative rival Gary Ridley by a majority of 7.3 percent of nearly 43,700 votes.
Meanwhile, students living in Leamington Spa can register to vote for the MP of Warwick and Leamington. The seat has been held by Conservative Chris White since 2010, when he won it from Labour’s James Plaskitt by a 3,513 vote margin. This year, the seat will be challenged by Labour’s Matt Western, Liberal Democrat Nick Solman, Bob Dhillon of UKIP and Jonathan Chilvers from the Green Party.
While students can register at both their term-time and home addresses, they can only cast a ballot in one constituency. Voters can check whether they are already registered by contacting their local electoral registration office. They can also choose to vote by post or by proxy if they are busy on the day.