New research has revealed an estimated 800,000 people have vanished off the electoral register. It's shocking but unsurprising news.
It's National Voter Registration Day on Friday and this year it's more important than ever. In late 2015 the government changed how you could register to vote, a move that has disproportionately affected students. In the past, a family member or your university could register you. But now the Individual Electoral Registration (IER) has been introduced and it means you have to do it yourself.
There was a severe lack of publicity and the government made no effort to raise awareness of the changes. Even the Electoral Commission raised concerns about how quickly the IER was implemented. It warned that without a significant publicity drive, the government was risking up to 1.9million people disappearing off the register.
It was only after this the government bothered to run a voter registration drive. For the most part it was left up to NUS and other parties to call on students to register to vote. But there was only so much we could do.
The electoral register has seen the most dramatic drops in areas with big student populations. Numbers from December show Canterbury has seen a 13% fall in voters and Cambridge and Dundee West have both lost 11%.
The government has claimed the changes were put in place to make the register more accurate and stop fraud and errors. But about one in 10 people were not automatically transferred to the new list of voters. This seems like a pretty big error to me. Some of these people may not even know their vote has been taken away from them. If you're not on the electoral register you can face an £80 fine, but it's even more alarming that 800,000 voices won't be heard in upcoming elections.
Even if the electoral register is miraculously fixed over the next few months, the figures from December could still have a huge impact. The government is planning on using these numbers to carry out a boundary review. Labour is rightly worried any boundary changes will result in new areas being skewed in the Conservatives' favour.
Students have already had to fight to make their voices heard over issues that directly affect them. NUS had to force a debate in parliament over the scrapping of maintenance grants, it shouldn't be a battle for students to be heard at the ballot box as well.
Government policies are having a huge effect on students, so it is only fair students should have a say on what these policies are. Weekly expenditure on day-to-day travel just get to college has risen by a third in the last year. Accommodation costs for students have soared by 97 per cent between 2001 and 2011 and it's only getting worse.
With this in mind, it's no coincidence the government has pushed this change through as quietly as possible. There are just months to go before local, mayoral and assembly elections across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. This isn't democracy. But you can still register to vote up to three weeks before the elections. And with National Voter Registration Day coming up, NUS is calling on students to register now. It takes only a few minutes at gov.uk/register-to-vote. It's not too late to make your voice heard.