Silenced: Early Election Could Leave UK Students Without a Vote

Thousands of students could be left without a chance to vote if the newly suggested voting date takes place in October. 

Possible Hint at Election Month

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The Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt hinted at the possibility of an election in October. This was suggested when being questioned by a House of Lords committee member.

October Isn’t the Usual Electoral Month

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In the UK, the usual months for voting land up in May or June, but this suggested change has everyone scratching their heads. October’s last election was held in 1974. 

Not Enough Time to Get the Paperwork

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Students are still settling into tertiary life and won’t have enough time to register or acquire the correct photo ID that’s required for the government’s new voter rules. 

It’s a Time of Transition

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Universities and student unions were already apprehensive about the students taking part in the autumn election as it’s a time of transition for the students and their focus isn’t on joining the electoral register. 

En Masse Register Not Allowed Since 2015

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The government’s new rules also prohibit universities from registering their students altogether at the beginning of the year. Since 2015, it is up to every individual to register to vote on their own. 

Photo ID Is Proof of Identity

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Student cards are not being accepted as proof of identity,  and are amongst some of the new rules implemented by the government. This also needs to be communicated ahead of time to ensure students can acquire the photo ID that they require for voting. 

Local Council Up in Arms

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With the election proposed for October, it would have the local councils up in arms as they wouldn’t have enough time to put in the new students’ addresses on the electoral register. 

Voters Left Without a Voice

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The registrar of the University of Nottingham, Paul Greatrix confirmed the concerns by stating that he did not think the data could be processed in time. 

Contingency Plan Devised

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Universities have come up with a contingency plan that if the elections proceed in October, an urgent information campaign would be launched.

Nearby Polling Stations to Make It Easy to Vote

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Any students registered at a different university address from the previous year can still take part in the vote at allocated nearby polling stations. Making the voting stations accessible. 

Registering Can Be Done Online

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Recent data depicted that thousands of students were not on the electoral roll due to the newly implemented rules. Those living away from home or who haven’t voted before will need to register online. 

New System to Promote Voters

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Many universities have introduced a system to sign students up automatically. When a student enrolls at the university they can select whether they would like their information to be passed on to their local council to register them to vote. 

Not Enough Time to Register

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A vice- president of the National Union of Students, Nehaal Bajwa, suggested that autumn is such a busy time that they fear students won’t prioritize registering to vote. She encouraged all universities to introduce the automatic enrolment systems. 

Automatic Enrolment System Urged to Be Implemented

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About 100 universities still haven’t implemented this system and it could have devastating effects on the number of student voters participating in the electoral vote in 2024. 

Young People Not Organized

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The director of the Higher Education Policy Institute (Hepi), Nick Hillman, said: “ You now need to be pretty organized to apply for ID and register to vote in time, and not many young people on the cusp of a major change in their lives will be.”

Young People Can Make the Difference

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It would seem that emphasis and shock with the newly proposed election has its merits. In 2017, university towns helped Labour to win both Canterbury and Leeds North West and retain them in 2019. 

Students Aid in Win

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In the 2019 election, Labour did much better in constituencies with the students, holding shares of the vote at 25% higher than the Tories.  

Time to Prepare for the Possible October Vote

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Only time will tell whether the October election becomes a reality, but it is crucial to ensure that students start to organize themselves accordingly if they wish to participate in the vote. 

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