Today is National Voter Registration Day. Bite the Ballot and partners are coordinating the UK’s third annual Drive to get people registered on the electoral register.
The timing could not be better for this campaign, considering how this week Guardian have announced that an estimated 800,000 people have dropped off the electoral register since the Government introduced changes to the system, with students in university towns at highest risk of being disenfranchised.
Overall 1.8% of voters are projected to have fallen off the register throughout the population and statistics collected by the Labour party establish that the register had shrunk more dramatically in areas with a high population of students, such as Canterbury, which has seen a 13% drop, and Cambridge and Dundee West, both with an 11% fall.
For me, this is a very concerning statistic. My constituency, Cardiff Central, has the second highest population of students in the UK, making this a very vulnerable area for people dropping off the electoral register. The Tories have rushed through changes to the electoral registration system, against the advice of the Electoral Commission who warned the Government to wait until December 2016. As a result, thousands of people in Cardiff Central have fallen off the register and may not even realise it.
The fact that this change disproportionately affects students and young people demonstrates yet again how the Government is failing young people; by scrapping student maintenance grants, exempting under 25’s from the increased national minimum wage and now thwarting their ability to have a democratic voice in this country.
I’m very grateful for all the hard work that has been carried out by Cardiff University, Cardiff Students Union and Cardiff Council following a campaign that I have worked with them on over the past eighteen months. Citizens Cardiff, Hope Not Hate and trade unions have also been actively involved in the registration campaign.
However, Cardiff Central is one of the fastest growing cities and our electoral register should be growing significantly not shrinking. The electoral register figures at present are not reflective of our city’s growth so lots has to be done to ensure that the people of Cardiff Central register to vote, and continue to have a voice.
There are Welsh Assembly elections in May and soon we have a big choice to make about whether Britain stays in the EU. But if you’re not on the electoral register, you won’t be able to vote and have your say. You could even face an £80 fine and find it harder to get a credit card or a mobile phone contract.
Today being National Voter Registration Day provides the perfect opportunity for people in Cardiff Central to register to vote. It’s quick and easy – you can register in just three minutes by going to www.gov.uk/register-to-vote