Lancaster City Council is encouraging local residents who have not yet registered to vote, to take advantage of National Voter Registration Day (5th February) and go online to register.
The call comes as the major political parties, both locally and nationally begin their General Election campaigns. It also follows news that registration among students studying in Lancaster is at an all-time low.
Changes to voter registration rules mean the majority of Lancaster students – living both on and off campus – are not on the Electoral Register. Nationally, the Mirror reported today that thousands of students had vanished from the Register and, overall, across all local authorities, there are 950,845 fewer electors than there were in last year's registers.
subtext, a Lancaster University-based ezine for students and academics, recently reported that the current voter registration rate on campus sat somewhere in the region of just 22.
“The drop off is concentrated in many of the key seats that will determine the outcome of the election," says Nick Lowles of Hope Not Hate, which carried out the research using latest town hall data.
There are fewer than 100 days until voters go to the polls to elect two Members of Parliament: one for the Morecambe & Lunesdale constituency and one for the Lancaster & Fleetwood constituency.
Local elections for Lancaster City Council and Parish Councils are also taking place on the same day.
“Anyone not yet registered to vote should do so as soon as possible," says Mark Cullinan, Electoral Registration Officer for Lancaster City Council."
I’d urge all residents to spread the message about National Voter Registration Day amongst family and friends who may not have registered yet. It only takes a few minutes to complete the form online.”
“National Voter Registration Day exists because it’s important that anyone who’s eligible to be on the register, but has not yet registered, does so. Young people, students and people who move frequently are much less likely to be registered to vote. We’re urging them to use the day as an opportunity to get onto the electoral register.”
Kay Jenkins, Head of English regions at the Electoral Commission, said: “National Voter Registration Day exists because it’s important that anyone who’s eligible to be on the register, but has not yet registered, does so.
"Young people, students and people who move frequently are much less likely to be registered to vote. We’re urging them to use the day as an opportunity to get onto the electoral register.
"There is still plenty of time for people living on campus to get registered - there is certainly no rush, but as well as waiting for people to pull their fingers out and get registered nearer the time, students need to be made aware that they actually are not automatically registered by the University anymore, and that there is a deadline," subtext noted in its report on low voter registration at Lancaster University.
"The last thing subtext wants to see is keenos being turned away from the polling booths because they weren't aware of the new rules and regs, although it may well be the first thing that certain political parties who perhaps might have fallen out of favour with students in 2010 would want to see happen.
"It would be of great help if academic staff were to open lectures and seminars with brief parenthetical asides referring to said rules and regs, as well as to emphasise just how EASY it is to do."
• Anyone not registered can do so at www.gov.uk/register-to-vote