Postcode comparison tool can maximise impact of student vote in the general election

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Students are “one of the most powerful groups of voters around” as they can choose which address to vote from

An online tool, the Student Voter website, can tell students where their vote will have the bigger impact in the 12 December general election – their term-time address or their home one. As students can potentially choose to vote from either of these two addresses, they have a greater opportunity to make their vote count.

The website, created by Tech For UK, lets you enter both of your postcodes and tells you which one is more likely to be a swing seat, regardless of which party’s MP is currently in power.

The majority of students (76%) would prefer to use this advantage and cast their vote in the 12 December general election based on where it’s most likely to make a difference, a TSR poll shows.

Students are “one of the most powerful groups of voters around, because unlike older people they can choose not only who to vote for, but where to exercise their right to vote,” says Sharon O’Dea, a digital consultant who was involved in building the site.

“Politicians would be wise to make their policies work for the younger generation. We hope this [website] encourages more students to vote, and encourages politicians to listen to the needs of the next generation – Brexit, housing, climate change, and much else besides.”

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Most students in favour of tactical voting

In November, a survey revealed that a significant amount of students were considering voting tactically over Brexit. Since then, TSR members have continued to discuss the upcoming election and whether they would tactically choose which address to vote from.

13WallisR is in favour, saying “vote tactically if your party doesn't have a chance where you are, please do this!”.

SteveyStack comments that tactical voting is “worthwhile … if the system allows it I’d recommend voting where it’ll make a difference.”

Of course, not everyone has the option to vote from a swing seat even if they have two addresses. “Both of mine are Labour safe seats so it doesn’t matter where I vote or really how I vote,” says TSR member Pugglet.

“Unfortunately neither of my constituencies are marginal so my vote won't make much difference,” comments Elbram.

For some members, they’d rather use their vote to make a local difference. 

“I guess it depends where your loyalties lie. For me my hometown is my home, so … that's where I'm going to want to make any difference if I can. And for any more local decisions this is where I have opinions for so this is where I would want to vote,” says Kindred.

Others, such as bubblecat, are against the idea of tactical voting at all. They comment: “it’s a short-term game that harms politics awfully in the long run. If everyone voted honestly rather than tactically, we may actually have more choices than just Labour or the Tories after a few elections. We just need to be patient.”

TSR members have also been sharing their thoughts on why they’re voting in the general election. You can find out more about each party’s manifesto here, and get involved in the general election discussions here.

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What is tactical voting?

Tactical voting involves picking a party that you wouldn’t normally back to try to stop someone else from winning an election; so to vote tactically, you’d probably pick whoever you think is most likely to beat that particular opponent. 

Students can register to vote at both their home and term-time addresses (although in a general election can only vote in one of these) – so tactical voting could involve choosing to cast your ballot in the constituency where you think it will make the most difference.

Why does tactical voting make a difference?

It might seem strange that tactically voting from different locations can make a difference – a vote’s a vote after all, so why should it matter where you cast it?

In the UK, we have a first past the post (FPTP) system, which means that everyone votes for who they want to be the MP for their area. Whoever gets the most votes in the area will become its MP, and the party with the most winning MPs will form the government. This means that a party could have lots of support, but if they don’t have the right geographical spread of supporters they probably won’t be able to win an election.

What are safe seats and swing seats?

A swing seat or a marginal seat is one where the current MP only won by a small margin the last time around, so there’s a good chance they could be voted out. A safe seat, on the other hand, is one where one particular party almost always wins.

If you’re choosing to vote tactically based on your location, it makes sense to go for the constituency that’s more likely to be a swing seat as that’s probably where your vote will make a bigger difference.

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