What's the biggest problem facing the Electoral Commission in the run up to the General Election in May? Getting students to register to vote.
The government's newly introduced individual electoral registration (IER) system has left nearly a million people unable to vote in the upcoming general elections. These are mostly students, who were previously registered en masse by the head of the household, (ie. the university), but now have to register individually.
Research conducted by the Electoral Commission indicates that around 30% of 18-24 year olds are not registered to vote, compared with less than 5% of those aged over 65. According to the Office of National Statistics, these changes have contributed to the biggest decline in voter registration since 1999, particularly in cities with high student populations such as Newcastle and Loughborough. Student towns such as Cardiff and Brighton also contain constituencies that are expected to be marginal seats in the general election, an issue that Ed Miliband called a 'democratic scandal.'
As a response, the Electoral Commission have teamed up with some of the country's biggest mobile phone networks, in order to send students a text message reminder as soon as they set foot on campus. Weve, a mobile marketing platform established by EE, Vodafone and O2, has 'geo-fenced' popular locations in universities such as Sheffield, Nottingham and Lancaster, to encourage students to register before the deadline: 20th April.
The Electoral Commission has also joined forces with NUS to launch Register a Friend, a viral campaign that encourages young people to get their friends to register to vote by sharing messages and photos on social media under the hashtag #regafriend - look out for all the selfies as it launches later this week.