How students can register and vote in the December 2019 general election

The December election is fast approaching, but don’t forget to put Tuesday 26 November in your diary too

Thursday 12 December marks the day of the general election, but 5pm on Tuesday 26 November is the cut-off for when you can register to vote – if you haven’t registered by then, you’ll be excluded and won’t get a chance to have your say on the day. 

Follow these super simple steps to get your voice heard this election.

Firstly, check that you’re eligible to vote

You can only vote if you’ve registered beforehand and are 18 or over on the day of the election. You can register to vote if you’re 16 (or 14 in Scotland), but you won’t be able to vote in this year’s general election – there’s nothing wrong with being super prepared for the next one though!

You qualify to vote if you fit the following criteria:

  • You’re 18 or over on polling day
  • You’re a British, Irish or qualifying Commonwealth citizen
  • You’re resident at an address in the UK (or a UK citizen living abroad who has been registered to vote in the UK in the last 15 years)
  • You’re not legally excluded from voting.

Once you’ve checked your eligibility, here’s how to register

If you’re not sure whether you’ve already registered to vote, you can check by locating and contacting your local registration office. If you’re in Northern Ireland, you’ll need to get in touch with the Electoral Office for Northern Ireland.

If you’ve moved to a new house since the last election, you’ll also need to re-register at your new address. If you have two addresses (say, a home one and a term-time one), you can register at both but only vote from one in a general election – more on that below.

You can complete the registering to vote process online.  It’s really easy, taking only about five minutes. Just make sure you have your National Insurance number and passport to hand, plus the details of your old addresses if you’ve moved in the last five years.

If you don’t have a permanent address, you can still register at a place where you spend a significant amount of time – maybe your parent’s address – but you’ll need to download a ‘Declaration of local connection’ from the GOV.UK website to complete.

Choosing which address to vote from: home or term-time

Students can register to vote at both their home address and term-time address. You’re only allowed to actually vote from one of them in a general election though, so choose wisely!

You might want to think a bit tactically about this. Perhaps one location is traditionally a safe seat while the other is more likely to be swung, in which case your vote could potentially end up making a bigger difference to the result. And you certainly wouldn’t be alone in voting tactically; a recent poll showed that a significant proportion of students are considering it.

Of course, 12 December is going to be close to the end of term. If you’re at university, you might have already packed your bags and headed home for Christmas by then. The good news is that you can still vote from your term-time address even if you’re not physically there – all you have to do is apply for a postal vote from your university’s constituency. The same applies for your home address, too.

We’ve gone into a bit more detail about postal and proxy votes below.

Ways that you can vote

Once you’re on the electoral register, you’ll then have to decide how you want to vote. The different options are:

  • In person at your local polling station
  • By post
  • By proxy – getting someone else to vote on your behalf.

You’ll receive a polling card nearer to the day, which will show where your local polling station is if you want to vote in person. 

How to vote by post

If you’d like to vote via post (because you’re home for holidays on the day of the election, for example), you’ll need to download a postal voting registration form, fill it in and return it to your local authority by Tuesday 26 November.

If you’re in Northern Ireland, you have a different form to fill in, and a slightly earlier deadline – you’ll need to get your application submitted by Thursday 21 November.

Once your postal polling card arrives, mark your vote on the ballot paper and make sure you send it back so that it arrives by 10pm on Thursday 12 December. If it arrives later than this, your vote won't be counted.

Voting by proxy

Alternatively, you can apply to vote by proxy. This is when you get someone else to go to the polling station and vote on your behalf. You must provide a reason for this choice, which can include:

  • You’re unable to go to the polling station for this particular election (for example, if you’re away)
  • You have a physical condition limiting you from getting to the polling station
  • Your employment or attendance on an educational course means you’re away on election day
  • You’re a British citizen living overseas
  • You’re a member of the Armed Forces.

The person voting on your behalf can only do so if they’re 18 or over and are registered to vote in this election.

You can download your voting by proxy form here, but you must return it by Wednesday 4 December.  

If you’re in Northern Ireland, this is where you can find the form you’ll need to use and it has to be sent back by Thursday 21 November.

Once you’ve got those few things sorted, you’re all set for the election. Now all that’s left to do is decide who you want to vote for…

Come and get involved in all the latest discussions in our general election forum.

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