The number of people registered to vote seems likely to have fallen this year: the final figures are not yet out, but recent figures from the Office for National Statistics suggested it could be as many as 800,000 fewer.
On our roadtrip, we caught up with various organisations that were trying to do something about this. The scene in Birmingham was particularly lively, where strenuous efforts were being made by Bite the Ballot and Operation Black Vote to get people to register themselves.
In Sheffield Central we caught up with Foyez Syed, an engineering student at the University of Sheffield, who was volunteering for Swing the Vote, a campaign organised by vInspired that aims to get young people to register to vote, as well as actually turn out on polling day.
There may well be a higher number of students that register to vote at Sheffield than elsewhere because of the university’s policy, last Autumn, of recommending people register to vote when they registered as students. “65% of people opted inm showing that we are not apathetic,” says Foyez, “although the actual number put on the register was far less because people needed their NI numbers. But the intentions were there, and some people may have chosen to register at home instead.”
Foyez also gave us a copy of Swing the Vote’s leaflet, which we’ve reproduced below:
Among Foyez’ projects was to hold an event where students were invited to write down aspects of the ‘Wesminster bubble’ on balloons – and then pop them. Topics that came up “not considering young people,” “lies,” and “pre-democratic processes, house of lords.”
Another student, who liked his zero-hours contract because of the flexibility it afforded him, wrote, “Choosing whether I can have my job or not.”
Foyez also met Paul Blomfield, Sheffield Central’s Labour MP since 2010, at the event and asked him why he thinks young people should vote. “Young people are the future, the outcome of this election is going to determine the sort of country they live in for the rest of their lives,” replied Blomfield.
“If you look back over this Parliament, you ask yourself the question, ‘Why is it the government have fallen over themselves to protect the benefits for older people, while young people have been screwed?’ Tuition fees have been trebled, education maintenance allowance has been taken away, youth unemployment not tackled, maybe it’s something to do with the fact that young people don’t vote. So it’s important that they should.”