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On Thursday Week 8, V-Fest – or ‘Vote-Fest’ – will be taking place in Alexandra Square, a new event intended to highlight the importance of voting in the upcoming Full-Time Officer (FTO) elections. It will provide the opportunity for voters to question candidates before casting their votes in confidential voting pods, a change from previous years where voters could only cast their vote online.
It will feature candidate questions, live music, food, and elections freebies, as well as the chance to win a pair of Kendal Calling festival tickets to those who vote in person. In addition, voters can have their picture with a photo-board saying they have voted in the election.
V-Fest has been put in place to help increase voter turnout, in particular because it will be the second day of voting. “Voter turnout on the second day is historically low so we thought it appropriate to add emphasis to the day,” VP (Union Development) Laurence Pullan explained, hoping that the benefits would include providing candidates a wider platform to promote their policies and manifestos, as well as increasing awareness of the importance of voting to the electorate.
According to Pullan, the voter turnout last year had fallen significantly compared to the year before, which he attributes to a lack of centralised promotion from LUSU and campaigns that were perhaps not as interesting as previous years, adding that “there is only so much reliance you can place on the LUSU Cow!” Voting had increased steadily from 2009-2012, culminating in a record turnout of 3,331 voters, which then fell to 2,814 last year. Pullan is hopeful that V-Fest will help to set a new record this year, especially after the all-time high voter turnout of the winter JCR elections, with 35% of the student body casting a vote.