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Don’t lose your voice – why we all need to make sure we are registered to vote

In under a month’s time, hundreds of thousands of young people across the UK will be able to vote in their first ever General Election. To me, being able to vote is something too important to be ignored. Everyone aged 18 and over has this democratic right and should use it. But there’s one thing that needs to be done first – registering to vote. Until recently, the registration was done by one person – the ‘head of the household’, who would confirm the details of all eligible voters in that house. But under legislation brought in by this government, it is now for each individual to register themselves. A new system presents challenges, and there is still a great deal of work to do to ensure everyone knows that they need to register to vote. The National Union of Students (NUS) is really pleased to be working with the Association of Colleges (AoC) and the Electoral Commission to publicise these changes. And with the deadline to register to vote in only a matter of days, we are encouraging all college students to register to vote and to encourage their friends to vote too, through the #regafriend campaign. General Elections don’t come around very often. But when they do, they give everyone the opportunity to have their say and vote on the issues that affect them. And it is critical that students have their say. During the leaders’ debate a few weeks ago, the final question was particularly pertinent – what will the next Government do for young people in Britain? There are a whole range of issues that impact students – from the cost and availability of transport, tuition fees in further and higher education, and the many barriers that exist for young people entering the jobs market, such as unpaid internships and zero hours contracts. It’s really important that we are all able to have our say on these issues on 7 May. By polling day, around 200,000 students in colleges will have turned 18 and will therefore be able to vote. And with an election which everyone is saying is still too close to call, our votes can make all the difference. So, make sure you use your vote and have your voice heard. Register to vote today! For more information about NUS’ general election campaign, go to newdeal2015.uk and check out the #generationvote and #regafriend hashtags on twitter. Toni Pearce is the President of NUS.