How do you register to vote and when do you have to do it by?

Guest Author, the views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the Electoral Reform Society.

Posted on the 13th November 2019

Whilst registration statistics have gone dramatically up since the date for the next general election became official, arguably the level of first-time registration may be being overstated. The statistics we are given tell us the number of people who have used the registration service but not necessarily people registering for the first time.

So whilst obviously it’s great lots of people are registering or re-registering, we shouldn’t act like the battle to get people to register has been won.

So why register to vote?

Well first off, the next general election is on the 12th of December. You need to register to vote to make sure you have a say on the most important issues; others will make the decision if not. It’s a very quick process to vote to register online and if you’re away you can apply for a postal or proxy vote so you don’t even have to go to the polling station.

Our government touches all parts of your life: be it your taxes, your health, your children’s education and so much more. It’s incredibly important that you express your views not only for the direct impact of your vote, but also showing politicians that you are a demographic they need to cater to – this is particularly true when it comes to young people.

So how do you register to vote?

To vote in the next general election you must register to vote by the 26th of November. You are eligible to register if:

  • You are 16 or older in England and Wales
  • 14 or older in Scotland, or
  • 17 or older in Northern Ireland

You can register to vote online now and you can do it in Welsh. Students can be registered at both their university and home address, however, it is a criminal offence to vote in both constituencies. The Guardian has put out a tool to show students where their votes will be more effective.

If you can’t make it to the polling station on election day you have two options: apply for a proxy vote or a postal vote

Proxy voting is where someone casts your vote for you. They must be over 18, on the electoral register and be able to get to the polling station on election day. To be eligible to proxy vote for the General Election on the 12th of December, you must apply before 5pm on the 4th of December. You must give a reason why you can’t make it to the polling station – for example, you’re on holiday on the date of the election.

A postal vote is where you post your vote in advance. This must be applied for 12 working days before the election, so the 26th of November for the December General Election. In Northern Ireland, the deadline to apply for a postal vote in the UK Parliamentary general election on 12 December 2019 is 5pm on 21 November.  You do not need to cite a reason why you would like to cast a postal vote.

There are a few reforms the government could implement to ensure that as many people are signed up to vote as possible: A ‘motor voter’ law so citizens can register to vote whenever they are in contact with government – from getting a driving license to sorting out their benefits or pension, trialling same-day registration so you can sign up on election day and an online service to find out if you are registered. It’s all of our responsibilities to ensure as many people are registered as possible.

This article was written by Daniel Priestley, a work placement student from Cardiff University

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