Sheffield MP says thousands of students could be locked out of local elections due to lockdown rules
Thousands of students in Sheffield could be locked out of local elections because of lockdown rules preventing them from returning to the city, according to Sheffield Hallam MP, Olivia Blake.
Sheffield Hallam MP Olivia Blake has called on the Government to extend the deadline for students to register for postal votes, following the recent announcement that students will not be permitted to return to their term-time addresses until May 17 at the earliest, 11 days after the Local Elections.
The proposed date aligns with Step 3 of the Government’s roadmap plan and aims to limit potential public health risks associated with student populations moving across the country.
With only one day until the deadline to register for a postal vote, Blake is concerned that this could leave students in Sheffield and across the country locked out of the elections on May 6, saying that there is a ‘serious chance’ it could happen.
Olivia Blake, the MP for Sheffield Hallam, said: “I know this past year has been really difficult for so many young people in Hallam and across the country - from students stuck in halls of residence without access to proper food or essential supplies, to the huge rise in youth employment we’ve seen across the city.
“It is vital that these young people have their voices heard on the 6th May, so they can be part of the vital conversation about how our country can recover post-pandemic - whether that is tackling the climate emergency, creating opportunities for young people, or investing in our mental health services.
“But unless the Government steps in immediately to extend the deadline and help register every young person for a postal vote, there is a serious chance that thousands of young people will be locked out of this important election.”
With less than half of 18-25-year-olds voting at the 2019 General Election, turnout among young people is already expected to be historically low at the May elections amid the pandemic.
In Yorkshire and Humber currently, only 9 per cent of young people have registered for a postal vote, compared to 29 per cent of those over 65.
Blake has tabled a question to the Secretary of State for Education to ask what plans the Government has to help register all students for postal votes at their term-time accommodation.
The Hallam MP has also asked the department what the scientific basis is for the decision to allow students to return to their term-time accommodation on May 17 rather than prior to this date.
Nationally, the Labour Party warns that Government inaction on postal voting threatens UK democracy and public health and is calling for councils to receive dedicated Government support for postal vote sign up efforts ahead of the deadline for postal vote registration in England on April 20.
Many young people are also unlikely to be vaccinated by election day as those aged 18 and older in England are not set to be vaccinated until July.
To vote in the local election on May 6, people must be registered to vote by April 19.
For more information about voting, you can visit the Sheffield City Council website via www.sheffield.gov.uk.