Jessica Murray: Leading the way in voter drive

TAKE ACTION: Students are urged to head to the ballot box.
TAKE ACTION: Students are urged to head to the ballot box.
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As part of the generation who will be most affected by the ongoing political upheaval we find ourselves in, it’s so frustrating to see voter turnout among 18 to 24-year-olds so low.

Only a few days after the announcement of a snap general election, I can already see the uphill battle to get students on the electoral register taking shape.

It may be the case that some students are more concerned about finding the cheapest pints or meeting their essay deadlines, but most importantly being on the voting register requires a fixed address.

And with students packing their bags and relocating every twelve months, it’s easy to forget to update your details and slide off the register.

Thankfully, Leeds University and Leeds City Council are leading the way in tackling this problem. Following a successful trial in Sheffield, they look set to introduce automatic voter registration as of September, one of the first universities in the country to commit to doing so.

This new policy would see the voter registration process merged with compulsory student registration, so students are automatically added to the register unless they opt out.

The House of Lords recently passed an amendment to the Higher Education Bill which, if passed in the Commons, would make this policy compulsory at all universities, but Leeds is already miles ahead. Reports suggest the new programme could add around 8,000 voters in the Leeds area, and considering the city’s vote to remain in the EU last year was decided by just 2,389 ballots, this is a number which could make a real difference.

However, this programme is 
too late for June 8, and it’s not fair that students should miss out because they’re registered at their home address instead or they 
forgot to update their Leeds residence. Whether it’s the rise of tuition fees or the prevalence of zero hour contracts, if we want change we need to turn our voices into votes. Leeds University and Leeds City Council are playing their part, now it’s up to students to head to the ballot box and take action.

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