MPs are concerned that thousands of students in Coventry won’t vote in May’s general election.
Amid widespread apathy and disillusion with Westminster politics, they blame government changes to the electoral register system, and accuse ministers of playing politics.
Coventry South Labour MP Jim Cunningham raised the matter in Parliament, and met with students at Coventry University yesterday, National Voter Registration Day.
He told the Commons 8,000 fewer people in Coventry had not registered to vote, adding: “The bulk of whom are students”.
He added: “The situation is very serious, and it is no good the government blaming everybody else but themselves when things go wrong.”
He and fellow Labour MP Sadiq Khan, the shadow justice secretary, said the problem had been a hasty switch to “individual election registration”, without an effective transition.
Labour says a million voters have dropped off the electoral register in the last year, predominantly young people and students, which could “undermine our democracy, and call into question the legitimacy of election results.”
Labour says it is “suspicious of the government’s motives”, believing it could be disproportionately affected at the polls.
The party is calling for emergency measures, including local authorities automatically registering people to vote from the data they hold.
The Electoral Commission says 7.5million eligible voters are not registered.
Mr Cunningham said: “The government pushed ahead with its changes to electoral registration, completely ignoring the concerns raised about how this will affect young people, students, and other groups who move about.
“It makes you wonder whether they don’t want young people to vote – which would make sense, given how none of their policies benefit young people.”
The National Union of Students at Coventry University yesterday met with MPs and a city council team, which set up a table on campus for registering voters.
It is also promoting voter registration on websites, and is planning a Question Time event for March.