Voter turnout has been declining in the UK since the turn of the century. There are over 46 million potential voters in the UK, but there are a million less voters on the electors now than there were in last year’s registers. This means an estimated 7.5 million people will be missing out on voting on 7th May, and over 14,000 of those are in Southampton.
Unfortunately, we, the students, are largely to blame. According to the Electoral Commission there is a high correlation between cities with high student population and low electoral registration. This isn’t entirely due to voter apathy in young people, but also the tendency for young people to move more frequently and rent privately. The leader of the Labour Party, Ed Miliband, claimed the decline in registered voters tend to be in student areas, with Cardiff, Liverpool, Newcastle, Leicester and Nottingham joining Southampton at the top of the list.
In June last year, the system for electoral registration changed significantly, rather than registering by households, each person was forced to register individually – particularly significant for students on halls.
Five years ago, just 44% of 18-24 year olds voted in 2010 General Election, that’s a third less than the national average. The government has announced £9.8 million in extra funding to boost voter registration. Ed Miliband has also written to vice-chancellors, asking them to do more to advertise voter registration procedures for students.
Southampton is among the very worst cities in the UK when it comes to proportion of students that are registered to vote. At the last count, less than 20% of students were on the electoral register.
Tomorrow, Monday 2nd March Southampton City Council, in conjunction with the department of Politics and International Relations, SUPA, and SUSU will be holding a voter registration event in Building 35, Room 1005, at 5.30pm.
Speakers will include Cllr Daniel Jeffrey, Cllr Keith Morrell and others. There will be opportunities to register to vote at the event.