A Student’s Guide to Voting: Everything you need to know about the general election

Eleana Davidsonon 5 November 2019

The jargon, the angry blonde men, the propaganda and biased manifestos quickly makes politics stressful. It's easy to see why so many of us shy away from the topic altogether.

But in reality, it’s a bit like not being bothered to take your makeup off after a night out. It's a stressful task when you get in at 2am, but you know it's important. And if you wake up in the morning with a huge spot on your cheek, you can’t blame anyone but yourself because you didn't do anything about it.

You can make a difference. And if you don’t bother, well, you can’t get angry if things get bad later on. 

We get it though, sorting through all the fluff can be overwhelming. So we’ve stripped it right back. First things first, let’s answer a few burning questions... 

Who can vote?

Anyone aged 18 or over can vote, as long as they are registered and a British citizen or qualifying citizen of the Commonwealth or Republic of Ireland.

How do I check if I am already registered?

You may already be registered, mums can sometimes be good like that. Check out Electoral Commission's Your Vote Matters website, or if you’re in Northern Ireland, check this electoral office website.

So if you’re not registered already, what do you do now? 

You need to register to vote, pronto. Head to this website, where you will need your National Insurance number, date of birth and address. The process literally takes about five minutes, so there really is no excuse. 

What if you don’t know your National Insurance Number? Don’t worry, you can still register. You just have to explain why you can’t provide it and will be asked to provide another form of ID.

And what if you’re in between two addresses? For example your parents address and your uni address...

You can vote using your university or home address, it’s up to you. If you’re already registered at your home address but won’t be there on election day, you can opt for a postal vote or proxy vote. See? You literally don’t even need to leave your house to get stuff done anymore. 

What if you don't have a fixed address at all? Some of you reading this may currently be sofa surfing, between addresses or even homeless. But you can still have a voice. All you have to do is fill in this form and take it to your electoral office. And if you haven't got a printer, you can pick up a form from your electoral office.

When is the deadline for voter registration? It’s 12 working days before an election - so for this upcoming general election on 12 December, the deadline is 26 November.

AKA, soon, so register now. 

Who are you actually voting for? Well, despite the overhaul of media coverage on BoJo, you’re not actually voting for a new Prime Minister. You’re voting to elect your local MP, and which party to represent your constituency. 

But it’s not quite that simple.

Britain operates on a First Past the Post voting system. And what exactly is that? 

To keep this as simple as possible, there are 650 constituencies across the country and each hold a separate contest. You vote for your constituency’s MP, which determines which party gets a ‘seat’. Then, the governing party (and our PM… ) is determined by however many blue, red, green (and the rest) bums are on those 650 seats. 

It’s not quite as straightforward as one vote equals one tally towards the national government. Instead, it’s more about 650 local races, and that then translates at a National level of how the House of Commons will look like. So this means your constituency's population could determine the weight of your vote...

We know – it’s complicated. 

But it’s worth considering how your vote may count towards the bigger picture, and that’s not to say your say counts any less than anyone else's.. Think about this scenario for example: If your parents live in a ‘safe seat’ constituency (AKA, nothing will be changing anytime soon), but your uni area is contested, then your vote could potentially go further by voting in your uni constituency. Soregister in both and do some research! You can make an impact. 

Lots of people have written about the power of voting tactically in a First Past the Post system, and there are plenty of resources online that can give you an idea of how you should vote to achieve a specific goal, such as stopping Brexit. These can be great tools, but you should do your research before believing them, and make you sure you trust the data behind the suggestions.

And before we sign off: Remember, don’t always believe everything you see or hear… Exhibit A: Facebook’s policy of allowing lies in political adverts will apply to the UK

Do your own homework and make an informed decision.

But above all else, get registered now and vote! Your voice really does matter, as long as you take the opportunity to use it. 

We’ll leave Brexit for another day…

Eleana Davidsonon 5 November 2019