The electoral register is key to our democracy. Yet, the completeness of that register is in grave danger. The Lib Dem-Conservative Government’s shakeup of how you register to vote has scratched 12,000-plus electors from Oxford’s rolls. Many of them are students, many of them are based in East Oxford, where my ward of St Clement’s lies.
Under the new system, you have to register to vote individually. No longer will one resident in a household be able to register all occupants in that property. No longer will universities register their students. As for a city where students make up more of the total population than they do anywhere else in England and Wales, Oxford is the worst-hit university city. Registration in some wards with large student populations has fallen off a cliff.
We need the register to be complete, so the City Council is focusing resources on young and student electors. The evidence is clear that going door-to-door makes a difference, which is leading council officers to prioritise face-to-face canvassing. OUSU are holding street stalls to drive up registration, which I’m supporting and staffing some shifts for.
But, we face an uphill battle to register voters lost in the switch-over in time for the general election, and we need you support. Please head online now to check you’re registered to vote and if you aren’t, register straight away. And please get the word out, so that as many people as possible get back onto the electoral register.
It’s disturbing that the new system makes it harder to vote, particularly for students who were likely to be registered in the first place. In Sheffield – where the student vote could topple Nick Clegg – those losing the right to have their say have greatest anger at the reversal of policy to abolish tuition fees and trebling of them to £9,000 a year. To see voting become harder when we’ve all seen under-18s doing it for the first time in the Scotland referendum (and Ed Miliband’s pledge that they could do it permanently) is disappointing to say the least.
So, to have a say over the decisions affecting your future, your voice has to be heard. If you aren’t registered, please go online and register now.