Nick Clegg puts £10 million into encouraging students and young people to register to vote

So, when there’s a certain amount of money around to encourage voters to register, what does Nick Clegg do with it?

Does he put it into a voter registration drive in the affluent ex-pat communities of Spain or does he put it into that group of people it can be difficult to find, young people and students? The latter, of course.  From The Guardian:

Lib Dem sources said Clegg, whose Sheffield Hallam constituency contains a high number of students, was “determined to ensure that the government does everything it can to help students register to vote”.

One said: “Nick Clegg has now ensured that the government will do more and he has successfully fought for an extra £10m to help boost registration rates among students and other groups at risk of under-registration. He also insisted that some of the funding will go to students groups to help them work to further boost registration, while other funding will go to local authorities so that they can make direct efforts on the ground. He vetoed Conservative plans to spend money on newspaper ads in the Costa del Sol, so the money could be spent on this instead.”

Experts have been warning for months that the new individual electoral registration could mean more many voters are lost from the register, as people have to sign up separately rather than leaving it to the head of the household. Students and other first-time voters are thought to be most vulnerable to not realising they need to sign up themselves rather than being registered as a block by their hall of residence.

The comments thread will no doubt be full of people pointing and laughing at the irony of a Liberal Democrat enabling students to vote. But, do you know what? Making sure that those most at risk of not being on the electoral register are informed and enabled to register is the right thing to do and I  am glad that he’s made this choice.


* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • Why, why, why is Clegg doing this? Are we trying to lose as many seats as possible!
    It’s almost as if he wakes up everyday and figures out how he can make it harder for lib dem campaigners to win elections

  • David Faggiani 2nd Dec '14 - 9:37pm

    Oh, come on Rob! I get your point, but it is, unproblematically, the right thing to do. I’m more concerned with why these changes came in in the first place. It seems like the way to go was broadening easy, fairly-incorruptible on-the-day registration, not this weird reform. I’ll be pretty disappointed if turnout in 2015 is below 2010.

    Does anyone know how the registration is carrying over in Scotland? In other words, will everyone who registered to vote in the Ref be able to vote next year, if they haven’t moved? If so, I’m betting Scottish turnout will shame the rest of the UK.

  • “Making sure that those most at risk of not being on the electoral register are informed and enabled to register is the right thing to do and I am glad that he’s made this choice.”

    If he were that bothered, would he have helped bring in individual registration at all?

    I don’t know if any official figures have been released yet, but I’ve seen comments by electoral officers who have suggested that voter de-registration has been going on at a scale not seen before outside America’s deep south, and of course it’s the young who are disappearing from the roll.

  • Daniel Henry 2nd Dec '14 - 9:48pm

    Individual registration makes it easier to register. Now you just have to go through a quick online registration rather than having to print off a form, sign in and then snail mail it to your local registration office.

    Other than the initial transition problems, it’ll actually make it easier for people to register.

    The old system was a complete mess. I got de-registered for some reason, without even being told and nearly wasn’t eligible to vote in 2014.

  • >Students and other first-time voters are thought to be most vulnerable to not realising they need to sign up themselves rather than being registered as a block by their hall of residence.

    I obviously missed something, when I was at Uni. it was clearly my responsibility to ensure I was registered to vote either at home or at Uni. So are we saying today’s Uni. students are daft?

  • The LibDems in government can’t think of a better way to spend £10 million – absolutely amazing.

  • Stevan Rose 2nd Dec '14 - 11:36pm

    When my council sends me a letter to explain why they are being forced to cut services to vulnerable (in an altogether different meaning of the word) children, on what planet is Clegg living where it is appropriate to spend £10m encouraging voters to register. If you can’t work it out for yourself, and it’s not rocket science, too bad, it’s called natural selection. Should have let the Tories do their idea then gone around all the politics shows and breakfast sofas to expose their madness and amazing lack of proper priorities. Instead our leader joins in.

  • Roland – I entirely agree.
    Having qualified as students – and therefore completing many onerous years of study and application to academic work, and having managed to just about apply for a University AND actually manage to turn up for the course, not just once, but repeatedly, I’d suggest that registering for a vote is not necessarily akin to a labour of Hercules for such people.

    Younger people who manage to negotiate the complexity of funding their mobile phone accounts are unlikely to need £10 Million to get on the voting register. If they’re not on already, then the likelihood is that it’s intentional. Thereby that problem would be more down to our politicians and policies rather than some form of invisible obstruction preventing them from democratic inclusion.

  • David Faggiani, I would actually bet that turnout in Scotland won’t be all that much higher than the rest of the UK. People turned out to vote in the referendum because there was a choice between very clearly different options on the table. The general election will be largely between a host of parties whose leaderships are all tacking towards essentially the same patch of centre right territory. Yes, even the SNP.

    Rob, it is a vital part of liberal democracy that the people can express their opinion of their representatives at the ballot box and fire them if they choose. We have to accept the verdict we get next May, and turning a blind eye to the disenfranchisement and disengagement of the young wouldn’t change that.

    But if we intend to continue on after next May, we need to continue being the party that will empower the marginalised and bring people shut out of the political debate into the equation. Even if, or perhaps especially because there won’t be many votes in it for us in the short term.

  • Liberal Neil 3rd Dec '14 - 8:28am

    Rob – Lib Dem support among students is about twice as high as among the rest of the population, not that I think that’s Clegg’s motivation.

  • £10 million seems like an arbitrary figure plucked out of the air, it smacks of tokenism.

    I agree in principle that every citizen should be registered to vote but I doubt very much indeed that this £10 million will make much practical difference to the number of students voting.

    Meanwhile we should take note that in the week when fewer than 17,000 Liberal Democrat members voted for a new party president, The Green Party has doubled its membership to 27,600.
    The vast majority of these Green Party members are under the age of 40.

  • Liberal Neil – the problem is that in our student constituencies (I work in one) the real student bits are our weakest areas and therefore the lower the turnout in these patches the better for our chances. Labour in local elections outpoll us 10 to 1 in student halls. Lets face it isn’t going to be any better at General Elections.

    Secondly, If we really want to make a contribution to tackling disenfranchisement the money could be better spent helping register the following groups, the Romany community, homeless people, EU residents. Intelligent, educated students should have wherewithal to be able to do it for themselves.

    Thirdly, £10 million could be spent better on say the NHS.

    Sorry this is bonkers both politically and morally

  • Michael McGrath 4th Dec '14 - 1:13pm

    Just think….student voters will be going to the polls, just as the first batch of University leavers saddled with £35,000 of debt will be leaving. I wonder how they will vote. Certainly not Lib Dem..Its a fantastic idea though.

  • Perhaps promoting some issue that people care about would be a better way to encourage people to vote? I mean, there’s a vague national feeling that all the major parties are basically kind of the same, so maybe promoting some popular view that isn’t really represented by the major parties could be an idea?

    Less forced-through privatisation of major public infrastructure for example? Say, the East Coast line? Post office? Hospitals?

    Why, I reckon if a party stated that they were fully in support of those things, they’d probably get some support. Hey, the current major party got in by promising “No more top-down reorganisations of….”

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