While the stress of the rapidly approaching exam season and the excitement – for those with tickets – of Radio 1’s Big Weekend are currently fighting to take up space in UEA students’ brains, there is one other important date to mark on our increasingly full calendars.
The 20th of April – only a few days away – is the deadline to register to vote in the upcoming general election. Students who have not yet registered can do so easily online by going to gov.uk/register-to-vote and completing the quick process.
The success of the Union of UEA Students’ (UUEAS) “Goats for Votes” campaign in the square resulted in over 1,000 people living in what Norwich City Council have said are assumed to be student properties registering to vote on or just after National Voter Registration Day – over 7% of the student body.
Research published at the end of 2014, analysing student voting patterns from 1997 to today, suggested that while students make up only 3% of the population, they could affect the outcome in ten marginal constituencies. Meanwhile the NUS has argued that students could be responsible for the outcome of up to 100 seats on the 7th May.
One of these contested seats is Norwich South, the constituency containing UEA and the wider area. Currently represented by Liberal Democrat MP Simon Wright it’s just one of the places in the UK where students are believed to have the chance to swing the outcome of the vote; while there are over 14,000 students at UEA under 300 votes would be enough to see the constituency seat change hands.
Chris Jarvis, Campaigns and Democracy officer at UUEAS, is encouraging UEA students to vote.
Speaking to Concrete he said: “The General Election is a unique opportunity for students to shape the future of their education, their community and the country – especially in Norwich South, one of the most marginal constituencies in the country”.
He went on to argue: “The more student voices that are heard in this election, the more likely it is that we will get a government that sees issues that matter to students, such as tuition fees, youth unemployment and climate change as a priority. For students in Norwich, this election is ours to win, but we have to register and then go out and vote if we want it”.
NUS polling recently showed that 73% of students nationwide are registered to vote. Pressure groups such as the NUS are hoping that between now and the 20th April as many of the remaining 27% as possible will register to have their voice heard on the 7th May.