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Yet another general election is looming, and you are probably tired of the never-ending elections and different twists and turns British politics keeps taking. Some of you may be politically active and therefore are campaigning for certain policies or parties.
Regardless, there are now officially five days left to register to vote. This blog will provide you with information on how to vote and why it's important that you do.
Why vote? (Voting Counts, 2019)
‘But surely, my one vote doesn’t make a difference?’
In 2017, According to votingcounts.org.uk (Voting Counts, 2019), 14.5 million eligible voters in the UK didn’t vote in the 2017 general election. The leading party by votes was the Conservatives with 13.6 million votes, followed by Labour with 12.9 million votes. That means there were more people who didn’t vote than those that voted for the Conservatives!
Likewise, if we look at the changeover of seats in some of the political parties, the Conservative Party lost 13 seats, the Labour Party gained 30 seats, the Liberal Democrats gained four seats, the Scottish National Party lost 21 seats and UKIP lost their only seat. All of this was determined through voters casting a vote.
For medical students in particular, there are so many reasons to vote. From how you want the NHS to look over the next few years, Brexit which could potentially affect the diversity of the medical profession (alongside all of the other reasons), to how you want your pension scheme to look going forward (English, 2019).
By voting, you’re supporting a candidate who will be able to represent your views in Parliament, and there are a variety of tools online which allow you to view the voting record of your current MP. While there are many ways to influence policy issues that take place in Parliament, voting is by far the quickest. Also, as young adults are most likely to change their vote in comparison to other demographic groups, a politician is more likely to vote towards a certain policy to subsequently win their support in future elections.
Even if the party that you voted for doesn’t win the seat in your constituency, there is still a reason to vote. And likewise, voting in a safe seat constituency will still make a difference. Political parties receive funding depending on their proportion on the number of overall votes, so ensuring your candidate reaches a certain threshold allows funding to be provided for future elections, or for work.
Another reason is that many important movements have fought to give you a vote. You've probably heard of the women’s suffrage movement, many of whom gave their lives to provide women with a vote. When it was first established 43% of eligible voters were women and, as such, women became a renewed source of political power as their votes could literally change the government.
You may have been told to vote for a specific political party, but regardless of how you wish to vote it is of fundamental importance to do so. Even if you choose to spoil your vote (leaving it blank), this still has an effect, as these votes are still announced. If there is a sufficient number, this states a clear message that there is a group in that constituency who have no faith in those that ran.
Some key facts
Hopefully you have now been persuaded to vote. Below are some key facts and details about how to do so. The last general election took place on Thursday 8 June 2017, just over two years ago. Under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011, elections are scheduled every five years, but Parliament can be dissolved earlier if the House of Commons votes by a majority of two-thirds to do so.
The general election
The next general election will be held on the Thursday 12 December 2019 and polling booths are open between 7am and 10pm. On Wednesday 6 November 2019 there was the formal dissolution (end) of the current Parliament.
To vote in the 2019 general election, an eligible voter who wishes to vote in person must be registered to vote by midnight on 26 November 2019. You can register to vote here: https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote
An eligible voter who wishes to submit a postal vote must be registered to vote by 5pm on 26 November if in England, Scotland or Wales, or 5pm on 21 November if in Northern Ireland. This doesn’t mean you have to vote by these deadlines, you just need to register to submit a postal vote.
As a student, you are entitled to register at home/non-term-time address AND at your term-time address but you can only vote in ONE constituency.
For example, a student who lives in Oxford East but studies in Belfast East may register to vote in both of these constituencies. They must only vote in one. If they wish to submit a postal vote and are planning to vote in Belfast East, this must be registered by 5pm on 21 November.
To be eligible, you must be:
All of these conditions must apply in order to be eligible.
English, P., 2019. Voting as a student. [Online] Available at: https://peterenglish.blogspot.com/2019/11/voting-as-student.html?fbclid=IwAR2kAkx7uQQAil7cMV1gqMQb_MQ2bCJvkL6xPEWy2p1YM3BDEfPmbc8i0Ls [Accessed 12 November 2019].
Voting Counts, 2019. Why Should I Vote in the General Election?. [Online] Available at: https://votingcounts.org.uk/why-should-you-vote-html [Accessed 11 November 2019].
Gurdas Singh is co-chair of the medical students committee
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