First time voters: college students get creative to rally young voters to the polls

Published Friday 8 April 2022 at 14:20

First time voters are being urged to make sure they are registered to vote before the April 14th deadline in a short new film featuring the voices of local college students.

Council local elections are less than a month away – yet despite the borough having one of the largest youth populations in Europe, young people here and throughout the rest of the country still have the lowest voter turnout rate of any age group in the electorate.

To help improve this, students from the Public Services and Early Years courses at Blackburn College took part in a focus group discussion about the local elections on Thursday May 5, 2022.

They helped to produce the following short video to support fellow young people and first time voters to help them overcome the two biggest barriers to voting: a lack of information and not thinking their vote matters.

The findings were enlightening and most likely not unique to any one area. They didn’t know about the upcoming local elections, how to register to vote or how/where they could vote.

The students said an increase in education around democracy would likely contribute significantly to increased voter turnout among students.

Local film maker Aeman Afzal helped work on the project with the Council and produced the short video to be shared with other students and across social media channels.

He said:

“We learned that college and university students as first-time voters are likely more unpractised than they are plainly apathetic to voting.

“Trends in voter turnout by age group are not surprising, since voting is learned like a yearly ritual. The habit is better developed in older voters, contributing to a higher turnout rate.

“The discussions we had were really valuable in helping to inform the students and ensuring they know how to exercise their right to vote.”

With days to go, it’s a good time to make sure you’re registered to vote. No matter where you were born, if you’re aged 18 or over and you live in Blackburn with Darwen you can vote in this election.

Blackburn with Darwen Council’s Chief Executive, Denise Park and Returning Officer, said:

“Our thanks go to Blackburn College and the students involved who have helped to create this video and who talked openly about their own views and barriers to voting. It was interesting and valuable insight that we have taken on-board and will build on for future campaigns.

“We hope that by taking part in this it will help them and others to take part in the democratic process.

Denise added:

“I would encourage everyone to register to vote by 14th April, so you have the opportunity to vote on May 5, as the local councillors you elect make important decisions on providing public services, including education, adults and children’s social care, waste management, libraries, leisure services, planning and much more on behalf of the borough’s residents.”

While most people who registered to vote in time for the 2021 elections will still be eligible to take part, first-time voters or anyone who has since moved will need to register again.

Blackburn College is home to over 3,000 students aged between 16 – 18.

Nicola Clayton, Blackburn College’s Director of Business Development and External Engagement, said:

“We were keen to support this grassroots effort that we hope will help to have a positive impact on students and to help increase first time voter turnout. We know colleges and universities have a vital role to play in helping to educate and support students in registering to vote.

“Students and first time voters, especially with the rate of increased turnout they can have, can have an enormous impact on elections.

“I’m hopeful we’ll see some new methods for reaching students and first time voters of any age or background as part of this valuable work and thank our volunteers for taking part.”

Want to vote? Here’s some key information:

  • The local elections in Blackburn with Darwen will see people voting for 18 councillors in the borough’s 17 wards, with 1 councillor elected in each ward except Roe Lee where there will be 2 councillors elected this year. Find out details of candidates standing and more here:
  • The deadline for registering to vote is midnight on Thursday 14th Visit:
  • Registering to vote takes just a few minutes and requires only a small amount of information from you – your name, address, date of birth and national insurance number. Visit:
  • And people must register for postal or postal proxy votes (if you need someone else to cast your vote) by 5pm Tuesday 19th April
  • At the last council elections in 2021, turn-out at polling stations was 31.8 per cent, down from 32.7 per cent in 2019
  • Anyone keen to register or unsure about how to register, where to vote or how to vote by post could find more information on the Council’s website:
  • Polling stations will be open between 7am and 10pm on May 5 and the votes will be counted the following day.

Students | Electoral Commission

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