Put polling stations in universities and colleges to engage young voters, says MP

Engage young people at 18, and they are more likely to vote for the rest of their lives

Election turnout could be hugely increased if polling stations were sited in universities and sixth-form colleges, an MP has suggested.

Paul Blomfield, the Labour MP for Sheffield Central, told the House of Commons that such a move could “encourage” young people to vote in greater numbers.

Mr Blomfield, whose constituency is quite student-heavy, made the remarks in the Commons during a question and answer session with Cabinet Office Minister Greg Clark.

He asked: “Ministers will recognise the particular challenge of encouraging young people to engage in the electoral process, so what consideration has been given to having polling stations in sixth-form colleges, further education colleges and universities to encourage 18-year-olds to vote?

Mr Clark responded by saying he would raise the suggestion “with the relevant authorities.”

He said: “It is in all our interests to ensure that as many young people register as possible, especially in student cities such as [Sheffield].”

Speaking afterwards, Mr Blomfield suggested that people who vote at 18 “are much more likely to stick with the habit of voting” throughout their lives.

“Ministers and councils should be looking at every option to maximise the number of 18-year-olds voting. Polling stations in sixth-forms, colleges and universities would be one way of encouraging democratic engagement for 18-year-olds.”

Traditionally, young people are less engaged in elections than any other group, and – perhaps in light of his constituency neighbour Nick Clegg’s collapse in student estimation, Mr Blomfield is keen to try and catch potential voters younger.

“There is a danger that, if younger people disengage from the political system, they will lose their voice in the decisions that affect their lives,” he said.

“In a week when the Prime Minister has been offering pledges to pensioners, who vote in large numbers, we might ask why young people have faced the worst of this Government’s policies – with rising long-term youth unemployment, abolition of Education Maintenance Allowances and trebling of university fees. Maybe it would have been different if they voted in larger numbers.”

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