Your Vote Matters Here

BILLY ALDRIDGE on why your vote at university matters.

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For many of us, Cambridge is our home.

We spend the majority of the year here, heading home for just a few weeks over the holidays and then going away over the summer. As students are allowed to be registered at home and at their University, the question of where they will (and, for some, whether they will) use their vote in an election is a big one.

Since I’m standing as the Green Party candidate for Newnham ward, it’s quite unsurprising that I support the right of students to be registered twice, but there are more important reasons behind it than just party political ones.

Firstly, even if you only spend six months of the year in Cambridge, decisions that the council make will affect you at some point in that time. This could be plans to introduce a no-drinking zone in the city centre, or to change recycling policy.

At the student hustings on Monday night there was big debate between Labour and the Liberal Democrats over policy on shared accommodation and houses of multiple occupancy.

Beneath the jargon and point-scoring, there’s actually something really at stake for us here – at some point, a large number of us will be reliant on rented accommodation in Cambridge and decisions that the next council make could have a big effect on whether that accommodation is available to us. Surely that’s worth being able to vote for?

My second point is a more partisan one, but hopefully one that’ll ring true with many liberal-minded people like myself. In the referendum on AV last year, Cambridge was one of a handful of areas to vote ‘yes’, suggesting that we as a city believe that our current first-past-the-post system is not fit for purpose.

I know that a Green vote at my home in Barking would be effectively wasted in anything except the proportional London assembly elections, and I’m sure many of the students who vote Lib Dem would find a similar situation back at their homes.

To be honest, I’d like to see a proportional system for the council. I find it ridiculous that there are no Conservatives on the city council despite them winning 21% at the last election, but that’s another story…

We’ve got a much better chance of voting in the parties that we really agree with here since we’re outside the Red city centres and the Blue countryside. In a small way, the ability to choose where we vote gives us a fairer say in an otherwise unfair system.

Some would say that the right for students to be registered twice is undemocratic and gives us too much of a say, but I disagree – I’d argue that it encourages greater participation, which leads to a healthier democracy.

For a start, it’s illegal to vote in the same election in the two places that you are registered – like voting twice in the general election – so it’s not true that students really do get a second vote.

Instead, the ability to choose where we vote allows us to think more about what’s at stake in the elections and gives us greater ability to bring about the changes we want to see.

In short, I don’t mind where you decide to vote, as long as you do just that. Vote!