UEA students have been encouraged to register to vote by the SU, local candidates, and fellow students.
The SU say they spoke to over 650 students about registering to vote last week.
SU Campaigns and Democracy Officer Amy Rust said that it was “crucial” students register, especially with the election being held at “a busy time” for students studying for exams and preparing to leave university.
She said: “Norwich South is a key marginal seat and even if students have gone home after exams their voice in a postal ballot could make a big difference. Students can still register to vote until Monday 22 May and can apply for a postal ballot until Tuesday 23 May.”
Miss Rust said: “Whilst we hadn’t planned to deliver a general election campaign in June of this year we are now determined to get as many students registered as possible and using their vote actively through our materials and events.”
— Amy Rust (@Amyrust_) May 22, 2017
The SU talked to students with stalls in the Hive whilst volunteers handed out information and stickers in the square.
On Thursday 18 May, the NUS visited UEA with as part of their “#GenerationVote Week of Action” to encourage student participation in the upcoming general election on June 8.
The NUS said they wanted to encourage voter registration “in style”, by driving a yellow VW Camper Van to marginal student seats, including Sheffield and Birmingham.
NUS Vice President for Society & Citizenship Robbiie Young told Concrete that students “want a say in what their country will come to look like on June 9.”
Despite the timing of the election, which falls in the exam period and the middle of Ramadan, he said students are enthusiastic about voting June 8.
Mr Young explained that students can use a postal vote or can vote by proxy “if they happen to not be in the country.” He added that students can “register to vote in two constituencies” and can vote in either their term time or home constituency.
He said the NUS wanted to clarify the registration process through the “week of action”, following confusion during the EU referendum. Mr Young told Concrete that the number of students who successfully registered to vote in the referendum was only a slim proportion of those who wanted to register. He said that some students were unaware that they could register without a National Insurance number but stressed it is possible without it to hand.
UEA’s Politics Society President Nick Stokes urged students to register and said: “In 2015, 56 per cent of people aged 18-24 didn’t vote. Whoever you hear saying ‘your vote doesn’t count’ is wrong – our votes do count, and we could change an election.”
When asked by Concrete if he had a message for students, Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Norwich South Clive Lewis said: “A recent poll revealed that while almost 80 per cent of people over 65 say they are going to vote, only 57 per cent of young people are planning to. As it stands, your generation’s future is being almost wholly decided by a completely different generation with very different priorities to you. But you can do something about and get your voice heard.”
— Clive Lewis (@labourlewis) May 21, 2017
The Conservative candidate Lana Hempsall said she advocates “all students to vote whether at home or at the university.” She added that “as the only female candidate standing for election in Norwich South”, she is “especially keen” for young women to engage.
Mrs Hempsall said she hopes the election will “galvanise women into considering standing for elected office in the future.”
She stated: “Parliament is still streets away from properly representing the demographics of our country in particularly in terms of gender and disability and it is time to redress this imbalance.”
The Liberal Democrat candidate James Wright called voting “the most vital part of having a say” in the country’s future.
He added: “We are seeing a Tory government pursuing harsh budget cuts, a disastrous hard Brexit and numerous illiberal policies. That’s not the sort of government I want in charge of our country – and I doubt many students want that either.”
Mr Wright said: “Those in university shouldn’t have to worry about mental health, housing or rising living costs, and if enough vote against the Tories on June 8th there may not have to be these worries.
We all have to make choices at this election, and while I believe that choice should be to back the Liberal Democrats in the hope of changing Britain’s future, the only way you get to have a say at all is to register to vote. It is your democratic right to do this, and the best opportunity there is to send a message to Theresa May.”
Green Party candidate Richard Bearman said whilst it was “really important for everyone to vote”, he thinks it is particularly so for young people “ as the decisions by future politicians will affect their lives for much longer than someone older.”
Mr Bearman said “the only way to vote is to be registered” and urged students to register before Monday’s midnight deadline. He added that registering “can be done online and takes four or five minutes – it helps if you know your National Insurance number as well as your current address, so have these ready.”
To involve students in the election, the SU are holding hustings with all Norwich South candidates, with the exception of Mr Bearman, as well as a panel of UEA academics. These events will both be taking place at 7pm on May 25 and June 1 respectively.
The UEA Media Collective will also be hosting a hustings with representatives from all the campus political societies. The event will be held on May 29 and live streamed through Facebook, as well as broadcast live on Livewire 1350.
Students can register to vote here: www.gov.uk/register-to-vote.
Additional reporting by Amanda Ng.