Students Quiz Candidates Ahead of Voter Registration Deadline

Published: Wednesday 15 April 2015

Students at Blackpool and The Fylde College were invited to meet with local parliamentary candidates as part of the NUS’ drive to encourage young people to register to vote ahead of the General Election.

Each of the candidates representing Blackpool North and Cleveleys, Paul Maynard (Conservative); Sam Rushworth (Labour); Bill Green (Liberal Democrats); Simon Noble (UKIP); and John Warnock (Green Party) attended an hour-long Q&A panel session before chatting with students individually during a networking lunch. They tackled issues including Education Maintenance Allowance, the Children and Families Bill and shale gas.

Matthew Hancock from Blackpool Council’s Electoral Services also spoke to students about the importance of registering to vote in advance of the 20 April deadline and demonstrated how simple the process is, taking just two minutes to register online.

Students’ Union Sabbatical Officer, John Simpson, helped to organise the event. He said:

“It was part of the national NUS campaign #GenerationVote. We wanted to encourage students to register to vote but also to give them the chance to hear about the issues that affect them from each of the parties so that they can make an informed decision about who they want to vote for. The students have responded well to the event, there was standing room only which was fantastic to see.”

Hazel Hall, 18, a young carer studying Childcare at Blackpool and The Fylde College was pleased candidates addressed her question about how changes to the Care Act would be implemented locally. She said:

“I care for my little brother who is 14 but he has a much lower mental age. I get a lot of support from the Carers Centre and I wanted to make sure that would continue under a new government. I’m happy with the way they answered my question and I do feel reassured now.”

Further Education President Emma Worden, studying health and social care, attended the Q&A. She said:

“There was a fantastic turnout and I think we did a good job of raising awareness of who the candidates are. I wasn’t sure who to vote for myself but I’ve made my mind up based on the event so it was useful. “

Emma will be leading by example having already registered to vote, along with Students’ Union Equality and Liberation Officer Vicci Thornley, who is studying to be a school support worker. Vicci added:

“We’ll be in reception areas at all College campuses this week with ipads so we can register students there and then. They will also be able to register in the learning resource centres; we want as many young people as possible to have the chance to vote.”

The government’s new individual registration system allows and encourages online registration from age 16 in readiness to participate in elections from age 18. The system no longer operates on the basis of the head of household completing registration paperwork, so college-age students are empowered to register themselves to vote.

Blackpool and The Fylde College has also been running tutorial sessions all week to encourage democratic engagement, and has received funding from Active Citizens FE (ACFE) to run voter registration campaigns resulting in informed and self-directed student registrations.

ACFE Director Rob Pope says:

“ACFE is delighted to be supporting Blackpool and The Fylde College to run a voter registration campaign, empowering young people to take responsibility for participation in democratic processes. By taking part, the college is demonstrating a real commitment to nurturing active citizens who are prepared to have their say in society.”

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