Whilst most were frantically searching around for their clipboards following the announcement of the General Election, getting ready to go out and campaign in constituencies up and down the country, I was frantically searching for matzah crumbs that had found themselves sprawled across my bedroom floor on the morning of 18th April, the last day of Passover.
But whilst I cleaned up the crumbs, all I could think about was how important it was that students were registered to vote in this election; and with two weeks to go until the registration deadline (midnight on 22nd May), it’s now more important than ever that students had their voices heard.
Did you know the only way you can vote on 8th June is if you’re on the electoral register? You’re no longer automatically on the electoral roll – you have to register to have your say.
In the 2015 General Election, voter turnout amongst 18 – 24 year olds was 43 per cent, almost 30 per cent less than the over 65s. The turnout for young people is far too low and we need to do something about it.
I’m proud that the Union of Jewish Students is supporting the work done by a number of different groups in getting students registered to vote by midnight on 22nd May.
Whilst there are many that are trying to frame this election as being solely about our decision to leave the European Union, it is far from about a single issue. Students are facing some of the most significant challenges in a generation: increasing tuition fees, an inaccessible and absurdly-priced housing system, and a health service – physical and mental – that is struggling more and more each day to serve the needs of an ageing population. Political parties will continue to ignore these issues if students fail to get registered and turn up at the ballot box.
Although students’ needs are far-reaching, that doesn’t mean that Brexit isn’t a key issue for them. It’s vital that the student voice is able to shape what our exit from the European Union looks like. 73 per cent of 18 – 24 year olds voted to remain in the EU; and although Article 50 has been triggered, students still have a chance to have their say in this General Election on the terms of our departure. But that can only happen if students register to vote.
For Jewish students, along with other student faith communities, there are specific challenges that political parties should be seeking to address. From tackling hatred and discrimination on campus and in society to protecting religious freedoms and practices, we must ensure that these issues are on the agenda in this General Election.
We know these are really important issues, but do our political parties? At the end of the day, parties will aim to appeal to the part of the electorate that they know will turn up at the ballot box on 8th June. My question to students is, will that include you?
Whether you’ve decided who you’re voting for or not; whether you have a political allegiance or you don’t, so many people have come before us and fought for our right to vote, so don’t let them down by failing to register by midnight on 22nd May.
For all your questions on registering to vote, Your Vote Matters has the answers. If you’re a student, you can register at both your home and term-time addresses, but you can only vote in one of those constituencies. To register you’ll need your National Insurance (NI) number (can be found on your NI card or a payslip) and your passport.
It only takes 5 minutes to register to vote: https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote
Once you’re registered, you need to think about where you’ll be on 8th June which is polling day:
- If you’re in the constituency where you’re registered (at home or at university) then you can vote in person at your local polling station, which will be detailed on the back of your polling card which you’ll receive in the post.
- If you’re unable to vote in person on the day (if you’re studying abroad, for example) you have two options:
- You can vote by post, for which you can find all the details, including the postal vote application form to send off, here.
- You can vote by proxy – allowing somebody you trust to vote on your behalf – you’ll find all the information, including the form to apply to vote via proxy here.
Don’t let another General Election pass us by. Exercise that democratic right of yours. Regardless of who wins, make sure you’ve had your say.
But don’t forget to register: https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote
On 8th June, UJS will also be holding our annual Incubator event, where Jewish students from across the UK will be showcasing their creative relationship with Israel at our fourth annual exhibition. So once you’ve exercised that democratic right of yours, you can come and join us at JW3 and celebrate the creative genius of those on our Incubator programme.