Empowering the future: A guide to voting for young people in the UK

Empowering the future A guide to voting for young people in the UK

A general election has been called in the United Kingdom on the 4 July 2024. 

Voting is a fundamental right that empowers individuals to shape the future of their nation. For young people in the United Kingdom, participating in the democratic process is crucial in influencing policies that directly impact their lives. In England, 1.6 million people study at college and it’s important that voices are heard. 

Explore the steps and considerations for first-time voters, providing a comprehensive guide on how to vote in the UK. 

Register to vote 

Before anything else, you must be registered to vote. The registration process is simple and can be done online from the age of 16. Visit the official government website or your local electoral registration office to complete the registration form. It’s important to register well in advance of any upcoming elections to ensure you are eligible to vote.  

Eligibility criteria for voting

To vote in the UK, you must meet certain eligibility criteria. You must be at least 18 years old, a British citizen, a citizen of the Republic of Ireland, or a citizen of a qualifying Commonwealth country with the right to reside in the UK. 

Stay informed 

Understanding the issues at stake is crucial for making informed decisions. Keep yourself updated on current events, political debates, and the stances of different political parties. Utilise reputable news sources, fact-checking websites, and candidate profiles to form an educated opinion. 

Explore political parties and candidates 

Research the various political parties and their candidates to find the ones that align with your values and priorities. Attend local candidate debates, read party manifestos, and engage with the political process to gain a deeper understanding of each party’s stance on key issues. 

Know your constituency 

The UK is divided into parliamentary constituencies, each represented by a Member of Parliament (MP). Familiarise yourself with your constituency, as well as the candidates running for election in your area. Understanding local issues can help you make more informed choices. You can find your local MP online 

Voting options 

In the UK, you can vote in person at a polling station, by post, or by appointing someone you trust to vote on your behalf (proxy voting). Check the details on your polling card for the location of your designated polling station. If you choose to vote by post, ensure you apply for a postal vote in advance. 

Voting ID

New voting photo-ID laws came into force in 2022. This will be the first general election where voters will need to show ID to vote.  

The Electoral Commission website has a full list of ID that is accepted here, and this includes:

  • Passports (UK European Economic Area and Commonwealth)  
  • Driving licenses  
  • Proof of Age Standard Scheme (PASS) cards  
  • Concessionary travel cards. 

Student travel cards and college ID will not be accepted. Approved identification documents don’t have to be in date to be accepted. Expired ID will still be accepted providing the photograph is still a good likeness.

Students can apply for a free Voter Authority certificate by 26 June at 5pm. You will need a recent digital photo and your National Insurance number.

Alternatively, NUS is offering a free PASS (Proof of Age Standard Scheme) card through Citizen Card (Code ‘NUS’). Students need a referee to verify details and upload a recent photo. Advice and Admissions and teachers can act as referees who can confirm students’ details if they have no forms of official documents. The last date for free delivery is 20 June at 12pm. You can order after this date but there’s a charge for express postage.  

Voting on Election Day 

On Election Day, make sure you have your polling card and photo identification. Polling stations are generally open from 7am to 10pm. Join the queue and present your photo identification. You’ll submit your vote in the privacy of the polling booth. 

Share your experience 

Encourage your peers to get involved in the democratic process. Share your voting experience on social media, discuss political issues with friends and family, and create a dialogue about the importance of youth participation in elections. 

Voting is a powerful tool for young people to shape the future of the UK. By registering to vote, staying informed, and actively participating in the democratic process, young citizens can contribute to building a better and more inclusive society. Empower yourself and inspire others to exercise their right to vote, making a positive impact on the nation’s future. 

Further resources 

For further information and general election resources, please visit: