Voting registration amongst young people and students in St Andrews has reportedly increased from previous years following university action and Student Union campaigning which has been praised by North East Fife MP Wendy Chamberlain.
Before the general election that took place on 12 December 2019, more than 3.1 million people in the UK applied to register to vote following the announcement in October that a snap election was to be held.
In the weeks prior to the election, it was widely reported that a large proportion of those who had registered to vote were young people, with two-thirds being under the age of thirty five and more than a million being under twenty five years old.
According to statistics published by gov.uk, out of 100,000 people who registered to vote over a forty-eight hour period running up to voting day, over 30,000 were under 25.
According to the government website’s voting registration tracker, there was an increase in registration among all age groups on 30 October, the day after MPs gave their backing to the pre-Christmas poll. 65% of all those who registered that day were under the age of thirty-five. The Labour party’s efforts to campaign towards younger people via Facebook and other forms of social media also resulted in an increase of young voter registration later in November.
Closer to home, there was an increased turnout in North East Fife in December, where just two votes had won the seat for the SNP in 2017.
For the most recent election and those prior, the University has been taking multiple steps to ensure an increase in voter registration among students, including the introduction of iPads at matriculation and working with Student Presidents.
“The University has been working closely with Mike Melville, electoral registration officer to increase student voter registration. We have assisted in delivering the letters to student households to encourage voter registration. Student Services has worked closely with the student president and various groups and societies throughout the University to promote voter registration.
“For the last two years the University has provided iPads at matriculation for students to register to vote. Student Services has also enlisted the help of postgraduate students at matriculation to facilitate voter registration, encouraging students to signup there and then if possible.
“As part of the online matriculation system, students are asked if they consent to the University sharing their details directly to the electoral registration office (ERO) to make the process easier.”
Towards the election, St Andrews’ Student Union also ran a campaign where information about how to vote was shared and students were actively encouraged to register to vote.
President of the Student Union Jamie Rodney outlined the aim of the campaign towards increasing student voting registration.
“This campaign was aimed at getting as many students as possible exercising their right to vote, and I think we massively succeeded at that— we had teams of student volunteers on both the registration dead-line day and Election Day getting people to register, and a huge push on Facebook to raise awareness. The reports of very high turnout rates in St Andrews would suggest that this has been successful.”
The exact number of students registered is yet to be determined but it is believed to have increased notably since previous years.
North East Fife MP, Wendy Chamberlain, praised the efforts of the Student Union and the University in encouraging young people to register to vote.
“All the young people I meet have no shortage of ideas of what could be done to improve our communities, our politics, and people’s quality of lives. However, too few believe that politics can make a difference.”
Ms Chamberlain, who was elected as North East Fife’s MP in December, succeeding the SNP’s Stephen Gethins, emphasised multiple student interests which can be affected by the democratic process.
“From the cost of your rent, the buses running on time and where they run to, the hours the pub is open to, the number of hospital places, the cost of education and how it’s paid for, there is nothing that cannot be changed by speaking up and voting. But even then, the first step is to turn up. That is why I was pleased to see the Student’s Association and the University finding new initiatives to make sure students are on the electoral register. I want to encourage them to go as far as they can while I encourage every single student to vote when they have the opportunity.”