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Islington students march for National Voter Registration Day

Mayor of Islington Theresa Debono and Islington Council chief executive Lesley Seary welcome 500 young people registering to vote for the first time
Islington Council chief executive Lesley Seary, council leader Richard Watts and mayor Theresa Debono welcome 500 young people registering to vote for the first time

Hundreds of local students took to the streets on Thursday to celebrate National Voter Registration Day and claim their say in this year’s general election.

Pupils from Islington City College and the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School were led by music producer Jamal Edwards on a march from Owen’s Field to the Town Hall, where they presented 500 completed voter registration forms to the mayor.

Mayor Theresa Debono told St John Street News: “We have this idea that it’s always the elderly that go out to vote, but today gives us a grasp of how young people can actually be bothered. They aren’t as bad as people make them out to be and today is a small step towards the future. I’m really thrilled and excited.”

Peter Murray, Deputy Director of the Sixth Form at City and Islington College, said: “A democracy is a hard fought thing and is very easily lost. Around 80 per cent of our students who will go to university know that they’re going to be in considerable debt at the end of it and that job opportunities are not what they were.”

“It’s more difficult to register to vote and we know from national figures that less people are voting. Many of our students are really passionate about politics and really do care about things.”

500 local students took part in the march

The march, organised by Citizens UK and Bite the Ballot, was designed to inspire more people to join the electoral roll.

Martell Ward-Lindsay, a student from Walthamstow, said: “So much happens in London, and because we’re now of working age, it’s important for us to be able to raise concerns and find out what’s happening.”

Councillor Richard Watts praised the efforts of Citizens UK, adding: “For politicians like me it’s really important that we’re held to account by local people. As leader of the council I’m always struck by the level of talent and ambition there is among our young people. It makes me feel really confident about the future of the borough.”

The overall turnout for Islington North and Islington South & Finsbury at the last general election in 2010 was around 65% and 64% respectively – reflecting almost exactly the average turnout of 65% across the UK.

For young people between the ages of 18-24, the number shrinks to 52% for the whole of the country, according to statistics available from the House of Commons Library. Although historically the age bracket with the lowest voter participation, this was up from an all-time low of 38% in the previous general election in 2005.

Residents need to apply to be on the electoral roll by 20 April to ensure their voice is heard in the general election on 7 May. Being listed to vote also comes with additional perks, such as helping credit ratings or making it easier to get a phone or TV contract. Details on how to register can be found here.

By Emma Volney and Yannic Rack

  • Watch: Last year’s Parliament Week and the fight for young voters

Video produced by Yannic Rack, Sodaba Haidare and Tiffany Lo

Written by Editor

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