With just under three months until the General Election, recent statistics suggest that just one in five students are registered to vote in Bath.
The Bath & North East Somerset Council told bathimpact that a total of 2,840 students had registered to vote in the Bath constituency from both the University of Bath and Bath Spa University.
Combined, the two institutions contain roughly 13,200 eligible voters which means that only 21.5% of said group have declared Bath as their constituency.
The news comes as the University of Bath Students’ Union begins its registration drive in an attempt to encourage students to engage in the run-up to the national General Election, scheduled to take place on the 7th May.
Freddy Clapson, SU Activities Officer, who is spearheading the SU’s campaign, said on the lacklustre figures, “There is plenty of room for improvement in terms of boosting voter registration amongst the students here.
“Over the coming months, the Students’ Union will be working hard to engage students in the General Election. Most importantly, we want to encourage students to register and have their voices heard where it matters most: the ballot box. We will be running a number of registration sessions and visiting halls, helping students exercise their most valuable right.”
Despite the low registration levels, the Bath & North East Somerset Council had “noticed an upsurge in registrations from students” in the past month. The Council plans to send reminders to students in private accommodation and halls in the next week.
The Council also confirmed plans to place a polling booth in the library on campus.
A number of students will already be registered, albeit outside of the Bath constituency, either at home or within their respective placement locations.
The poor registration will likely send shockwaves to both the Labour and Green Party prospective parliamentary candidates (PPC) for Bath who will be placing emphasis on winning the student vote, who could represent up to 25% of the local votes.
Ollie Middleton, standing for the Labour Party said, “In towns like Bath with a large student population, students hold the 2015 election in their hands. If they make their voices heard, they have the power to create real change. It’s vital that they register to vote. As a student myself, I can provide effective representation for students in Bath.”
The Labour party have vigorously lambasted the Lib-Con coalition for halting the practice of ‘block registration’, whereby universities and colleges could register students living in halls in their local constituency.
Meanwhile, Dominic Tristram, the Bath PPC for the Green Party told bathimpact, “The continual targeting of the young by the Tories and Lib Dems for the largest cuts and closing of services is entirely down to the fact that so few of them vote,” adding, “It is easy to think of voting as a waste of time, but the more young people who engage with politics, the more politics will do for them.
“The Green Party actively campaigns for younger voters, with policies such as scrapping tuition fees, and this is why we have a larger number of younger members than other parties and are now the first choice nationally for people from 18 – 24. This is why registering and voting is essential – you can help sway national policy to work for you rather than against you.”
The Bath constituency contains the majority of the student wards including Oldfield Park, Combe Down, Bathwick, Twerton, Southdown and, of course, the city centre. Both the University of Bath and Bath Spa student’s situation on-campus are also located within the constituency.
A far smaller number of students are also located in the North East Somerset constituency, which surrounds the city, who elected Eurosceptic Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg in 2010.
A recent YouGov poll, conducted January 15th, asked young people aged 18-24 ‘how they would vote if the General Election were tomorrow’ suggests that Labour (32%), Greens (22%) and Conservative (22%) parties all have the most to gain from the student vote, with UKIP scoring a rapidly growing 13% and the Liberal Democrats 5%.
The figures represent a dramatic change in young people’s perceptions of the main parties, with the Labour vote decreasing from 44% on the previous year, the Greens experiencing a surge from 10% and UKIP from 5%.
The Liberal Democrats have seen their student support all but dissapear to around 5%, the survey said.
Students can register to vote here.
All statistics accurate at time of writing (01.02.2015)