Recent changes which have been introduced to the system of electoral registration have resulted in approximately 800,000 people failing to register for the upcoming local Mayoral and assembly elections this May.

Amongst this number is a significant portion of student voters, with towns and cities with large student areas demonstrating the most significant decreases in numbers, shown by figures gathered by the Labour Party.

The decrease has come as part of a change in which individuals are now responsible for registering themselves, where previously the head of a household could register all residents. The government introduced this change in order to reduce fraud and error. The change has impacted university students due to halls of residence previously being allowed to register all students living there automatically.

“To have to register individually is irritating, when we moved into our student house one person could have done it for everyone”

The figures show Canterbury as having experienced a 13% decrease in registration and Cambridge with 11%, have produced concern that large groups of individuals may be left disenfranchised and this could therefore impact the result of the vote. The Labour Party expressed concern before the change that up to 1 million people could fall off the register without realising.

Sam King, a second year Environmental Science student, said of the change: “To have to register individually is irritating, when we moved into our student house one person could have done it for everyone but now the process seems unnecessarily long winded when there are so many people living at the same address voting. When I lived at home my mum registered to vote for me”.

In order to encourage students to register to vote Sheffield University has made electoral registration a part of the process of university registration, a system which Gloria De Piero, the shadow minister for electoral registration has said has achieved fantastic results.

She remarked that “the University of Sheffield has seen outstanding results by integrating voter registration into the enrolment process… 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”.

Emma Duffey

Image: justgrimes via Flickr

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