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You can’t Not(ts) Vote

Make your voice heard. Register to vote.

The 12th December 2019 is set to be the first December general election in 96 years and whilst some are enthused by their newly found power to elect MPs, many students are overwhelmed by the prospect of not knowing who to vote for and if whoever they choose will actually break the Brexit deadlock or not.

It is to no surprise that many of the older members of the UoN community may feel the need to utter “you’re joking – not another one”, as was the response of ‘Brenda from Bristol’ back in 2017. Whilst there is clearly a sense of electoral weariness in recent months it is still important that we embrace our right to vote and make informed electoral decisions on the basis of policies that matter to us as well as the national interest. In this article I will set out the basis of where to vote, what to do as a first-time voter and how to vote strategically in order to simplify the confusing voting system and make it easier to navigate.

The key first point for students to take on board when thinking about voting is the need to register as a voter on the electoral register. Whilst this may sound like a complicated process, it is actually very simple and just requires a quick application to be filled out on the gov.uk website (https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote). Students have the right to apply to the register twice meaning they can be registered both at home and at university giving flexibility for breaks from terms and holidays. As the election is scheduled the day before term ends there is also the strong possibility that people may be out of the country on early holidays and therefore is it strongly encouraged to register online for a postal or proxy vote making your vote count regardless of if you’re in the country or not. Proxy voting means someone who you designate will carry out the vote on your behalf, removing the hassle of having to send off a postal vote if you know you won’t be present to vote in your constituency.

Once you have registered to vote the focus should then move to where would be best to vote – at home or university. Given that the election is within term time, university seems like the most obvious choice however it’s important to keep both options open.

Nottingham has a total of eight constituencies but the main ones affecting the University of Nottingham boundaries are ‘Nottingham South’ and ‘Broxtowe’. Nottingham South encompasses all of University Park Campus and Jubilee Campus as well as the surrounding areas of Lenton and Radford. This means most students in the university will be taking to polling stations in this constituency – the locations of which will be released closer to election day. It is currently run by Labour MP Lilian Greenwood who has a comfortable majority of 62.4%, yet this could be set to change in the next election if students’ overwhelmingly support the Liberal Democrats in order to put forward their majority belief that remaining in the EU is the best policy in this current Brexit climate.

Broxtowe constituency includes all of Beeston meaning students living in Broadgate Park and those living out of campus in the area will likely be voting here. Its current MP is Anna Soubry who defected from the Conservatives to Change UK, making it a constituency with a very tight margin. Adding to this, in the 2017 election the vote was split almost evenly between Labour and Conservatives with Soubry only just inching ahead with 46.8% to 45.3%, suggesting that there’s everything to play for in this electoral constituency.

In order to make your vote count most and have a strategical electoral impact, it’s important to look at the tightness of electoral statistics in both your home and university constituency. If for example your home constituency has been a long running Labour stronghold, but your university constituency has a much tighter electoral outcome it would make more sense to vote at University as your vote is more likely to have an impact on the final electoral outcome and vice versa. Yet if there is little between the electoral profiles of both constituencies then choosing the one which is most conveniently placed for you to vote is likely to be a wiser decision.

If you are still confused on how to vote or simply want more information on MP’s voting records then the ‘They Work For You’ website helps to set out MPs’ policies as well as showing what debates and issues are recently being debated in Parliament. This should allow you to see how aligned MPs are with your own beliefs and look more in detail at the policies and issues which will be dominating this election.

Yet, most importantly, the key takeaway point is that your vote counts and you should use it to bring about change and impact the government policy that you want to see. The youth voice matters and we should aim to hold onto it in an era of uncertainty.

Lauren McGaun

Feature Image courtesy of Jacob Collier SU via Facebook.

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