Jude Kirton Darling calls on young people to register to vote

03 June 2016

If you think you are already registered, it might be best to check. Since the changes brought by the Conservative government, an estimated 800,000 people across the country have disappeared like smoke from the electoral register. Students in university towns are at the highest risk of being disenfranchised.

We, as the Labour Party, worry that whole sections of society will be disenfranchised, after the government moved from registration of electors by household to asking individuals to sing up, citing fears of fraud and error.

Combined, in the North East, my constituency, and in Cumbria, over 70,000 electors have fallen off the electoral roll. Our university towns and cities have been the hardest hit, with Newcastle showing a decline of 18,111 voters, Durham nearly 9000 and Sunderland 5776.

Recent figures suggest that up to 1.5 million of the 6 million UK residents aged 18-24 are not registered, and a further quarter of the 8 million who are 25-35. Previously, universities, like other institutional landlords, could provide a single list of eligible voters to the local authority.

Now every student has to register individually, which, surprisingly, is no one’s priority during freshers’ week. As a result, the levels of registration plummeted from 100% to 10% in most university residences. Additionally, the date of the vote falls after most university finals and in the middle of Glastonbury Festival, so many will not be in their polling districts.

All of the polling is, for once, clear: Eurosceptic tendencies increase exponentially with age. 53% of 18-24 year olds want to stay in Europe, but 54% of over 55s want to leave. The older proportion of a population may end up making a decision which will overwhelmingly affect the youngest section of our population the most. It is young people who have the highest unemployment rates, who have most taken advantage of the travel and work opportunities that the European Union offers, who will be most affected by the potential economic turmoil and uncertainty of a leave vote.

This is a crisis of democracy. It is not as obvious, perhaps, as crises of democracy usually are, but it could lead to the youngest in our country being dragged out of the European Union against their will, and largely without their knowledge. So please: if you are a young person and you care about the future of this country, and you want your future to be better, brighter, safer and securer within the European Union, check if you are registered to vote today.

You must register to vote by 5pm on June 7th to vote in the EU referendum, and you have until 5pm on Wednesday June 15th to register for a proxy vote—where someone votes for you in your place, if there is a reason you know in advance that you cannot get to your local polling station.

This article originally appeared in the Huffington Post.

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