Election 2019: Young people - have you registered to vote?
22 November 2019
The past ten years of government policies have left young people in a dire predicament. Faced with a growing housing crisis, mountains of student debt, a lack of youth services and the worsening climate crisis, the choice of who to vote for in the upcoming general election on 12 December is undoubtedly a very important one for young people today.
However, even though the next government’s policies will have an impact on their lives for decades, only 55% of 18 to 24 year olds voted in the last election (compared to 85% of over 70s) and currently a third of young people are missing from the electoral register. This is a democratic crisis and there is a movement of young people determined to change this. Groups such as Youth Vote UK 2019, Vote for Your Future and Fck Boris (inspired by Stormzy’s famous words at last year’s Glastonbury) have been galvanising young people to register and vote in the upcoming elections.
Getting the youth vote out
On 12 November, exactly a month before the general election, a record number of young people registered to vote. Out of the 160,000 people who registered on this day 69% of them were under 35 and 42% were under 25. These record-breaking statistics prove that the youth vote is a force to be reckoned with. In the run up to the register to vote deadline members of the Global Justice Now youth network have been registering young people to vote. From the student union bar at Middlesex University in Hendon to the streets of Boris Johnson’s constituency in Uxbridge - armed with leaflets, forms and tablets - we’ve been registering young people to vote right there and then.
The creativity of young people inspiring others like them to vote has been electrifying. ‘Register and rave’ events have been taking place across the country, including on Saturday 16 November when hundreds of people were registered in Boris Johnson’s own constituency. Vote for Your Future, a non-partisan, independent campaign has run massive online campaigns. And the group we’ve been working with, Youth Vote UK 2019, has been organising voter registration drives throughout the UK through a Facebook group.
Katherine Hearst, a precarious arts worker from London, set up the Facebook group in 2017 after she realised that not enough was being done to get young people to register to vote. Two years ago she started going to schools and universities talking to students about how important it was to register and then vote. When the election was called in late October she reactivated the group by enlisting the help of a network of activists she’d built up through climate and migrants rights campaigning. Now the group has over 600 people from across the country and voter registration drives are being organised from Southampton to Sheffield.
Students can register to vote at home and at university
The general election will take place in the last week before universities break up. Many students may be going home and may be confused about where they can vote. This is why it's important to emphasise that it’s possible to register at both your home and university address (but you can only choose to vote in one!). Labour-affiliated Momentum have launched a digital tool to advise where your vote will be most impactful. Postal votes are also attractive to students in this predicament. By choosing a postal vote you don’t have to worry about where you will be or what you will be doing on 12 December itself and be able to cast your ballot via post in advance.
Getting the migrant vote out
After doing a few voter registration drives at universities for the upcoming election what struck me most was the lack of knowledge around who is eligible to vote. Not everyone was aware that it is not only British citizens who can vote but also anyone from eligible Commonwealth countries. Over the past three weeks I have registered a handful of Cypriots and dozens of Indians who had no idea about their democratic right to vote in the country they are currently residing in. Postal votes are particularly key for international students who may have left for their home country during the Christmas period.
Of course it is not just young people who’ve got the potential to determine the outcome of this election. Thousands of typically unregistered people, who are often negatively affected by government policies, hold the future of the country in their hands. BAME voters and those with no fixed abode (such as homeless people and canal boaters) are just as important to get registered in the days leading up to the registration deadline on 26 November. Other initiatives such as Promote the Migrant Vote and Votey McVoteface are galvanising those underrepresented people in society to have a say.
Register young people to vote before 26 November
The issues which affect young people have the potential to be either improved or worsened with whichever party wins in the upcoming general election on 12 December. So it’s crucial that we take steps to ensure young people are properly represented in politics. If you’re passionate about getting young people to vote go to youthvoteuk2019.com for all the information and materials you need to register people to vote before the deadline on 26 November.
It is likely that the election results will be determined by the thousands who have never voted and are not already registered, so team up with your friends, family and fellow locals to organise a voter registration drive in your area!