Students at risk of ‘dropping off’ voting register

Students are most at risk of ‘dropping off’ – not in a long 9am lecture, but from the electoral register.

Figures unearthed by the Guardian have revealed that 800,000 people – equivalent to almost 2% of the voting population – have dropped off the list of registered voters since last year.

If your name is not on the list, you will have no say. Register to vote before midnight!

The concerns come as 2016’s Police & Crime Commissioner elections are fast approaching

Labour have warned that students make up a large proportion of the missing voters, as under new rules universities and family members can no longer register students on their behalf.

Constituencies with big student populations have accordingly seen large drops in the number of registered voters, with Canterbury’s voter numbers falling by 13% and those for Cambridge and Dundee West dropping 11% each.

While most people have been automatically transferred over from the old registration scheme, around one in ten voters will need to re-register.

Shadow Minister for Electoral Registration and Young People, Gloria de Piero, has encouraged universities to be part of the solution to tackling the problem, noting the University of Sheffield’s practice to include voter registration as part of their enrolment process.

In a letter to John Penrose, the Minister for Constitutional Reform, she wrote: “IER [individual electoral registration] prevents universities from block registering all their students in halls of residence, but measures should be taken to ensure that it is as easy as possible for individual students to register.

“The University of Sheffield has seen outstanding results by integrating voter registration into the enrolment process. This makes it easy for students to opt into being registered, and has resulted in 67 per cent of students at the university being on the register.

“I write to you today to call for official guidance to be issued to every vice-chancellor in the country about how they can adopt the Sheffield model in their universities for next year’s enrolment.”

However, Mr Penrose said that the solution was “not quite that simple”. He was also keen to point out to MPs that to “carry forward” the old register in full would “pose an unacceptable risk to the accuracy of the register”.

Much of Labour’s fear is also said to come from the government’s plan to adjust constituency boundaries, which would be based on the number of registered voters – a deficit in traditional Labour voters on the electoral roll could see constituencies redrawn around groups of Conservative voters, dampening hopes of a Labour majority in 2020.

The National Union of Students has backed the drive to get more students registered, warning of the consequences of individual registration as early as November last year. They are also backing the National Voter Registration Drive which is happening from February 1 – 7 across the UK.

If your voting address is in England, Wales, or Scotland, you can register to vote on the gov.uk website.