It’s election time again here in the UK, so I thought I’d put together some information on registering to vote, how to work out who to vote for, and where to vote, in case any of you are unsure.
Registering to vote
Before anyone’s going to let you vote, you have to register to vote. The deadline is May 22nd, and you need to have your National Insurance number on hand (you can find this on a payslip, or follow these instructions) to register.
Most people leave registering up until the very very last second. I’d recommend doing it a bit earlier, because websites do go down sometimes.
To vote in a UK election, you don’t necessarily need to be a UK citizen, or to have a fixed address. Students can register to vote at both their home and university addresses, but can only actually vote at one of them.
Will my vote make a difference?
Stop, before you read this section – go and register to vote. Go on, you’ve got time.
Does one vote really matter in the grand scheme of things? Sometimes only a small number of votes are needed to tip the balance: in the 2015 election, Byron Davies, MP for Gower, won his seat by only 27 votes.
Even if you live in a so-called “safe seat”, things can change massively between elections – in 2015, Labour lost loads of safe seats in Scotland.
If everyone thought that their vote didn’t count, then nobody would vote at all. Your vote is one small pixel in a wider picture. You could also influence more people to vote for your chosen party by campaigning in your local area.
“Women: the suffragettes died for your right to vote “
The next time a condescending man on the internet tells me that I am morally obligated to vote because suffragettes fought and died for my right to do so, I might scream.
Universal suffrage wasn’t even in place for men until after the first world war – so men, you should also remember that people fought and died for your right to vote, and leave me alone.
How do I work out who to vote for?
The manifestos of the parties you’re choosing between are a place to start – I think only Labour have released theirs as of yet, but will be available on the party websites and discussed in the news. Whether or not the party will actually go on to implement its policy pledges is another question entirely and one I don’t know how to answer.
While political parties often mandate what their MPs should vote for and against in Parliament, sometimes votes are left to the MP’s discretion, and sometimes MPs rebel against the whip and vote differently to the party line. If your constituency has a standing MP who is being re-elected, you can check out their historical voting record on theyworkforyou.com.
You should also check the manifestos of your local candidates to see their specific pledges, track records and areas of interest.
How do I know what’s true and what’s not?
This isn’t the easiest question to answer, but there are some sources of information that are hopefully (?) unbiased and well-researched.
I like to read fullfact.org, because they often fact-check recent news stories, and cite all of their sources. They’re owned by a charity dedicated to fact-checking the news.
For the more data-driven amongst you: anyone who reads my blog regularly has probably noticed that I love the Office for National Statistics more than is at all appropriate. They have datasets on everything from baby names to household spending to mortality. You can answer all kinds of questions for yourself by downloading a few simple spreadsheets.
Once you’ve registered to vote and decided who to vote for, you just need to pop along to your local polling station and put down your “X” on a piece of paper.
You don’t need ID to vote, you just walk in and give them your name and address.
To find your polling station, go to wheredoivote.co.uk and enter your postcode. Polls are open from 7 AM to 10 PM.
In the end, it’s up to you to choose whether or not you want to vote, and who you want to vote for, although obviously I will be judging you internally based on your chosen party.
I respect your right to disagree with me, as i expect you to respect my firm conviction that you do so because you are fundamentally evil
— joe (@mutablejoe) April 6, 2017
I hope this information has been useful for decision-making and practical issues.