Video: We’re not kidding - UEA students encouraged to register to vote with incentive of goats to pet
06:30 06 February 2015
You have to be in it to win it. A national drive to get people registered to vote ahead of the May 7 elections gained momentum yesterday thanks to an unlikely ally.
MPs and candidates across the political spectrum have spoken with one voice about the need to register to vote amid fears there could be a lost generation of young voters in May.
Time is running out for those who want to exercise their democratic right in the upcoming local and general elections, with some voicing fears that a new system, which relies on individuals to ensure they are on the electoral roll, could see even more of the younger generation disenfranchised.
Students at the University of East Anglia yesterday offered students the chance to have their picture taken with a goat in return for making sure they were signed up. Those not registered were banned from the new napping area - the Nap Nook.
New rules mean the head of household, such as a parent, cannot register everybody living under their roof,
Votes at 16?
Since the 1960s 18-year-olds have been able to vote in UK elections but recently demands for 16-year-olds to gain the vote have grown louder.
The Scottish Referendum in September 2014 saw the vote given to 16 and 17-years-olds for the first time and polls suggest around three quarters voted.
The Labour Party has plans to lower the voting age to 16 if elected in May.
Jessica Asato, candidate for Norwich North, and who was vice chair of the Electoral Reform Society, said: “I have always been supporter of giving the vote to 16 and 17-year-olds.”
She added: “It is so important that our young people get a taste of democracy when they are young, but also when first exercise other rights in society, such as paying tax. As we saw in the Scottish referendum when you give the vote to 16 and 17-year-olds they absolutely embrace it so we should have it for Westminster elections too.”
Although it is not Conservative policy, Chloe Smith, MP for Norwich North, is open to the idea of giving younger people a chance to vote.
The MP who also sits on the all-party parliamentary group on voter registration said: “I think that votes at 16 could be a way of welcoming young people into politics.”
She also believes online voting could boost voter turnout: “It is time to look at the online security measures needed to make it online voting possible so it could be as convenient to people as everything else online that people do like shopping, dating or banking.”
Yesterday’s voter drive comes after figures last month showed Norwich had seen a 4.7pc fall in electoral registrations, with most other parts of the region also seeing a drop.
Research company Ipsos Mori has estimated that just 44pc of 18 to 24-year-olds voted in 2010, compared to 76pc of over 65-year-olds. The research also showed that less women in the youngest age bracket voted, with just 39pc casting a ballot, compared to 50pc of men.
In 2010 turnout was 65.1pc, but some experts predict that with such a tightly fought contest, the numbers turning out on polling day could go up.
Norwich North MP Chloe Smith said: “Now is the time to get registered so you can have your say. Young people are actually doing politics in all sorts of new and exciting ways. Well done to UEA for an inventive idea which is a great laugh that also has the serious message not to forget to register.”
First time voters in Norfolk
• Jacob Stirling, 18, is our first time voter on the EDP election panel.
He said: “I think the push to register people to vote is really important. If you don’t vote then you cannot complain when the Government does something wrong because you haven’t participated in the election. I think certainly more needs to be done to educate people.”
His retort to young people who said they could not be bothered to go out on polling day was that it was just a case of ticking a box, and that it didn’t even take 15 minutes to register online.
He said that the Government should consider e-voting and also look at compulsory voting, like in Australia.
• Billie Bell, 17, is a student at Sprowston Community High School and will be voting for the first time in May.
He is a former member of the Youth Parliament for Norfolk and worked on the Procedures Group for the region deciding the future of the body.
“Jobs are a big concern for young people and so are university tuition fees.”
He added: “The way young people are getting involved in politics is more through activism but voting is still important.”
Labour candidate Jessica Asato said: “Being registered to vote is the basis on which we can afford to live in a democracy. We have seen ever decreasing numbers who are voting, particularly among younger people and those from poorer backgrounds, It is a tragedy if groups lose their voice in our democratic process.”
While UK Independence Party MEP and prospective candidate for Broadland Stuart Agnew said: “Evil prospers when good men do nothing. I don’t know who said it, but somebody said it. It is the only chance you get once every five years to change the way you are governed and if you don’t take it, you have only got yourself to blame if things go wrong subsequently. Every vote counts, the rich man and the poor man’s.”
Green Party candidate Lesley Grahame said: “There was a time when the idea that everyone should be entitled to vote was considered dangerously radical. “Now it’s easy to take voting for granted. I would urge people to use the right that people have worked so hard for over many generations. Here in Norwich, you can a huge difference with a single vote.”
Liberal Democrat candidate James Wright said: “This is perhaps the most uncertain general election in my lifetime, and registering to vote is key to having your say on May 7th. The whole process is very straightforward and can be done online in a couple of minutes.”
A spokesman for Norwich City Council said local authorities up and down the country knew there would be an issue of making sure that teenagers who were coming up to voting age were on the register.
She said that all schools and high schools in Norwich would be contacted in the build up to the election to make students aware of the changes and information cards would be hand-delivered to schools so the message was conveyed.
“What’s crucial is that, come polling day, all attainers who will be eligible to vote in this year’s local and general election have been personally given the chance to make sure they’re on the register in order that their democratic voice can be heard.”
Under the new system people can register online for the first time so all they need to do is visit: www.gov.uk/register-to-vote
What UEA students think about voting:
• Chris Jarvis, campaigns and democracy officer at UEA, students’ union said: “Changes to the system mean that universities cannot block-register students anymore, so we came up with this out-of-the-box idea to remind students they need to register to vote.”
• Charlotte, Chantelle and Holly, first year students, believe that university tuition fees are the biggest issue which will decide the way students vote. They also said that they did not see a massive difference between the two main parties.
• Ben Young-Longstaff, first year Maths student, said: “Even if you don’t like any of the parties you should still register and then you can spoil your ballot. A lot of politicians views are all the same really.”
• Liz Morrison and Cathy Davies, first year English students said: “Most of our friends will vote but a lot of people feel like they are not being listened to on big issues and so they don’t vote. Things like education and the NHS are what are really important to people our age.”