Changes in the electoral registration system mean that thousands of students are yet to register to vote.
Old governmental guidelines stated that it was the ‘head of the household’ that registered voters in each house. However, changes in the process means that it is the responsibility of each voter to individually register themselves online.
It is believed that thousands of students are unaware that they have to register themselves. Of the 13% of existing voters that have not registered, research suggests that the majority are students.
It is in student towns that the highest drops in number of registered voters has been seen. The BBC have analysed register figures from 21 student areas, including Exeter, and concluded that registered voters fell by over 181,000 voters from 2013 to 2014.
To combat this, the Constitution Minister, Sam Gyimah, stated that £4.2m has already been invested to ‘ensure that under-represented groups, of which students are one, are targeted and reached by the local authorities to get them on the register.’
The registeration process is online and takes just minutes to complete. Many believe that universities should be doing more to make students aware that they each have to individually register online. Indeed, the ‘Bite the Ballot’ campaign, which encourages greater youth participation in elections, states that this is a ‘crisis.’
According to Nick Hillam of the Higher Education Policy Institute, there are ‘12 seats at the next general election that we estimate could be decided by the student population.’ This highlights how important it is that students are made aware that they have to individually vote online.
The Electoral Commission insists it is dealing with the problem and will be hosting a national, mass media public awareness campaign from March 16 to encourage students to register before the 20 April deadline.
Beatrice Wood, News Teambookmark me