What happens when the general election falls on the end of the term?

Christabelle Quaynor explains how the date of the general election could affect the student vote.

This current general election has prompted several crucial discussions based on tactical voting in terms of which region your vote will be most effective in, policies affecting university tuition fees and Brexit. What makes this general election stand out in particular, is perhaps the date the general election falls on – Thursday the 12th of December. The first general election held in the winter since 1923. This date also falls on the week when many universities (including Essex) complete their first term, ready for the Christmas holidays.

This is a prevalent issue – commuting and living away from home as a student can be stressful, and there can be a lot of pressure to vote as a young person. Of course, voting is vital and reflects the representative democracy we aim for. However, people often do not discuss the hurdles that may be faced when voting. For instance: the majority of students on campus do not reside in Colchester permanently, meaning they may be registered to vote in their local area.  

Although you may be thinking that students can be registered to be vote in their home constituency and their university accommodation constituency, not everyone knows this. I only know this now, as I have done research in aim of increasing my political knowledge and rights as the older I get, I the more I realise how much my vote can change the world. But in my first year of university, I thought my only option was to go back home and vote. I was calculating the costs and the inconvenience of commuting home to vote for one day, and then come back. I knew I would’ve had to, but it added onto my mountain of stress upon deadlines, budgeting and part time work. So, what about those who may be oblivious like first year me, or those who have missed the deadline to register at two different regions?   

Due to the elections being at an awkward time for students living away from home, it is undeniable to admit the results of this election will stem from the impact of students. 

Students are a crucial demographic that can change the world, enabling themselves to reinvent predominant political trends in the area. Take the 2017 elections in Canterbury for instance – by just 187 votes and a +20.05% rise, Labour won the elections against the predominant party, the Conservatives – making history and shocking a few. According to the Guardian, in the ten years to 2015, Canterbury’s student population doubled by 40,000, producing one of the highest ratios of students to general population in the country. 

However, this is not always the case and can cause a loss for some politicians. For instance, Boris Johnson has a majority of about 5,000 of his Uxbridge and South Ruislip seat in comparison to the 10,000 students and staff at Brunel University. However, Brunel University’s term ends on the week beginning the 9th of December, meaning Johnson would lose the student vote in the borough, as many students would have gone back to their permanent home address. This analysis is not exclusive to Brunel University – according to The Tab, 57% of 2,000 respondents will be voting at home this year, whereas 43% will be voting at university.  

The student vote is a powerful one, causing dissatisfaction from one side, regardless. Holding the elections on the week of many universities breaking up for Christmas may be dismissed as unfair, due to students facing an uncertainty and potential stress on where and how to vote, especially for tactical purposes. Although students may not permanently live in their term-time address, we still have every right to vote in the area as we reside there. A significant amount of students will be travelling home for Christmas on Thursday, and could face a long and potential journey relying on train services or being held by traffic – this may dissuade them from taking the time to vote when already the number of young people voting is not very high. On the other hand, permanent citizens may dislike students voting in a province that they do not permanently reside in, as they may believe this does not accurately reflect the stance of the province.  

Regardless, the election period is always a sensitive time for many. Citizens are vocal about their dissatisfaction and how their personal experiences have been inflicted by current or past policies. Politicians are using Twitter as a platform, consistently trying to collect votes alongside lobbying. The media is infused and accused of political bias and favouritism. You could imagine us students dealing with these factors on top of the chosen election date! Nonetheless, it is a democratic society we live in and we strive for. We as students have recognised these issues and therefore can combat these alongside doing the most important thing on Thursday – vote! 

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