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On Thursday Week 3 the polling stations will open and the future of the country will be in the voters’ hands. To make sure no students miss out on the opportunity to make their political voice heard LUSU have heavily campaigned for greater numbers of students registering to vote.
In Lent Term SCAN revealed that only 22 students on campus were registered to vote in the General Election. According to figures from Lancaster City Council on April 4, by that date 1144 Lancaster University residents were registered to vote.
This is a very significant increase in the number of registered students, but is still only 28% of those on the electoral roll for the 2013 County Council Elections: 4121. According to Subtext, Lancaster University’s figures are comparably successful as only nineteen students from the University of Cumbria, Lancaster campus, were registered to vote on Wednesday Week 8, Lent Term.
Both parties have recognized Lancaster and Fleetwood as an important parliamentary seat; it is currently number nine on Labour list of target seats for the election. Throughout April numerous leading politicians and campaigner – for both parties – have visited the region to drum up support. Most notably Labour Leader Ed Miliband, Conservative Chancellor George Osborne, and Labour campaigner and comedian Eddie Izzard visited the city this month.
Voter turnout has declined significantly in the last decade and it is lowest in the under 25 age group. In an attempt to reverse that trend, the Students’ Union, with the financial support of the NUS, has therefore been running the 333 campaign to encourage more students to register and vote in the election.
The campaign takes its name from the 333 margin of majority in last year’s election for this constituency, Lancaster and Fleetwood. With more than 12,000 students enrolled at the University, the campaign highlights that Lancaster students have a particular high influence as the margin between the Conservative Party and Labour Party is so narrow.
LUSU have spread the message around campus through their 333 campaign bus which travelled around the campus during the final week of the Spring term. The bus offered free rides around campus as well as a daily trip from campus to Sainsbury’s. On board campaign volunteers were there to provide information about registering and could even register people there and then.
With a number of volunteers at hand the campaign continued to gain more signups, with around 450 student in total registering to vote, many coming of their own accord. There was a corresponding increase in the number of people registering to vote online to the publicity generated by the campaign.
General awareness is the key aim of the campaign. Damon Fairley, VP (Union Development) said, “one of the highlights for me was seeing the campaign register students who didn’t even realise they were eligible to vote’, particularly students from outside the UK. For example Commonwealth students can vote in all UK elections and students from EU member states can vote in all local elections.
While the deadline has passed for voter registration, 333 continues. Fairley stressed that it is equally important to actually go and vote as it is to register in the first place. “The more students that vote in this key marginal constituency, the greater voice we have as a student movement nationally”, said the VP. LUSU is encouraging students to look at the parliamentary candidates for Lancaster and decide which candidate best represents your interests. Alongside UCSU, the Union set up a Question Time event in lent term for students to listen to the constituency’s prospective candidates.
For more information you can follow @LancasterSU #Generation Vote and #333 on twitter. There is also a Facebook page ‘333’ where you can keep track of the progress and events taking place in the run up to the election.