The Government has quietly made registering to vote an onerous task for students. Let's make sure that doesn't stop us reaching the ballot boxes

The task now is to make our generation too powerful to ignore

Share

Last week I took part in i’s first student debate. It was heartening to see hundreds turn out to passionately discuss the challenges the next generation face and how they intend to make their voices heard at the ballot box. But in spite of all the interest inspired by the event, as I gazed through the train window on the way home, I wondered: will those who attended be able to cast their vote at the next general election at all?

Individual electoral registration was quietly passed through in the Government’s Electoral Registration and Administration Act last year. Rather than register as a household, it requires every elector who wishes to exercise their right to vote to apply individually to join the register. The Government says it expects more than 35 million voters to shift over to the new electoral roll. But it is harder to reach groups with more transient living arrangements – students and young people - and even the government admits that these groups stand to lose out from the changes. If you were to live in your family home when you turn 18, student halls in your first year at university, and then moved to rent in both your second and third years, and again when you finished your studies, you would be required to register no less than five times just to vote in the constituency in which you live. The new law requires students to jump through hoops not to lose that hard-fought right to vote.

When we asked students about voting in a poll recently, we found almost half were not registered to vote, just over a third were registered and a further chunk where unsure; hardly surprising given the shifting of the electoral goalposts.

Those students who voted so enthusiastically, only to see politicians’ promises so blatantly broken on tuition, the scrapping of the education maintenance allowance and now, proposals to remove job seekers’ benefit entitlement from young people, are quite likely to have had their faith in voting undermined.

To stop a generation of voices from being lost, NUS has today joined forces with Bite the Ballot – an politically independent social enterprise – to empower all young voters to vote through the first ever National Voter Registration Day (#NVRD), which aims to get 250,000 people signed up to the electoral roll. But that is just the beginning. If each of those register another 10, we will be building our power and getting poised to use it.

There are huge challenges facing the next generation and just 456 days until the next general election. Politicians have found it too easy in the past to brush aside the concerns of young people and students, or worse still, to make promises only to betray them and then expect to get away with it, because they judge us to be powerless and apathetic.

By registering to vote now we put ourselves as pins on the electoral map, and by registering en masse our generation can populate the political landscape of the UK with a powerful force that politicians will ignore at their peril. Our task is to make our generation too powerful to ignore, and if we are registered to vote and in possession of a ballot paper, it is the politicians who will have to have to sit up from their slumbers, and take notice of us.

Toni Pearce is president of the National Union of Students.

This article was published in the i newspaper on February 5th.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

If I were Prime Minister: Every privatised corner of the NHS would be taken back into public ownership

Philip Pullman
 

Errors & Omissions: Magna Carta, sexing bishops and ministerial aides

John Rentoul
As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links