Valuing the right to vote

Published

Over a thousand students living at Murano Street Student Village found that they were unable to vote in the European elections that took place this summer.

An “oversight” by Sanctuary Management Services (SMS) meant that the Murano Street residents were not added to the electoral register in Scotland. As students had been assured in their welcome packs that their registration would be handled by SMS and so need no other input from themselves, many of those who intended to vote in the European elections last summer only found out when it was too late.

The matter only came to light when one student called Glasgow City Council to check that he was eligible to vote. After being told that he was not registered, he contacted SMS to find out what had gone wrong. It was only then that SMS became aware of the problem.

Whilst the error that caused the lack of registration may be understandable, SMS should have contacted students as soon as the mistake was brought to their attention. It is all very well to apologise now but the damage has already been done.

Some students were able to rectify their situation in time to register themselves, but many others were left unable to do so in time to vote in the European elections. The “oversight” could just as easily have happened this year, and would have left students unable to vote in national elections, effectively denying them a say in who governs the country. Considering that SMS had no idea the mistake had been made until a student contacted them, it is entirely possible that the same situation could occur next year. All students living in university halls, not only those staying at Murano Street, should find out now whether or not they are registered to vote, particularly as it is likely that the next general election will take place in May 2010 — during the examination period.

One positive aspect is that this incident highlights the fact that students are still politically active, thus defying the continuing trend of voter apathy. The European elections had the lowest voter turnout in their history this year, and whilst it is extremely unlikely that the entire population of Murano Street would have gone to the ballot boxes, it is encouraging to see that people still value their hard-earned right to vote.

The lesson to be learned from this is that if you want to exercise your right to vote then be responsible for your own registration – don’t rely on others to do it for you.