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Thursday, September 05, 2019

Young people sign up to have their say

With a General Election before the end of the year now all but inevitable, the Guardian reports that more than 100,000 people have applied to register to vote since the start of the week, with young people making up the bulk of the surge against the backdrop of a momentous 48 hours in British politics. They say that on Monday, 52,408 applications were submitted, according to government figures, followed by 64,485 on Tuesday:

The figure on both days was significantly above the typical number for weekday applications, which has averaged about 27,000 for the past month.

Parties that have traditionally drawn support from younger people will be most encouraged by the figures, which show that 58% of applications submitted on the two days were from people aged 34 and under. Many of those signing up this week are understood to be students moving into new areas for the start of term, but experts pointed out that others may have put registering on the backburner.

“It’s not surprising that there will be a lot of young people in these figures,” said Dr Toby James, a senior lecturer at the University of East Anglia who has authored reports on Britain’s low levels of voter registrations.

“But I think that there is probably a tidal wave of applications to come. We’re all guilty of leaving things to the last minute.” Labour, in particular, has been having conversations in recent months with groups behind voter registration drives amid concerns about the limitations in systems or names “falling off” registers.

The paper speculates that if sufficient numbers of young voters are registered and marshalled then they could make significant impact in marginal seats with large student populations.

In many ways this is a hopeful sign. It indicates that at a time of national turmoil and unprecedented division, when UK politics are a complete mess, young people are keen to engage to try and change things for the better. Let's hope that they succeed.
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