Students in Cardiff have taken to the streets to protest in a last-ditch attempt to get on the electoral register after their applications were deemed invalid.
Despite registering to vote ahead of the deadline, up to 200 students may not be able to exercise their democratic right today due to mistakes on their applications.
Many living at Liberty Bridge student halls said Cardiff Council either never prompted them to send further information, or were told their application was invalid after the November 26 deadline to register had passed.
Their applications had information missing, such as flat or room numbers, but many argued there was only a drop down menu option and could not manually enter their address.
Cardiff Council said around 1,000 applications were invalid and they managed to contact about 800 who were then able to get registered.
With just a few hours left to vote, NUS Wales organised a last-minute protest in a desperate bid to get the decision overturned so students can have their say in the General Election.
According to the Electoral Commission, if there is a clerical error committed by the council they have until 9pm on the day of the election to rectify the issue ahead of the polls closing at 10pm.
But the council argued that although it ‘shared the students’ frustration’ it was not their error and have done their best to contact all with invalid applications.
Protesters could be heard chanting on Thursday night: ‘Hey ho ho, Cardiff Council are too slow. Hey ho ho students all deserve to vote’.
University of South Wales student Olivia Edwards told Metro.co.uk the situation was ‘atrocious’ and said she registered in mid November but only received an automated email on Monday, after the deadline, saying the application was invalid.
Olivia, 19, said: ‘It’s my first time [voting] and I was devastated. There’s a huge statement of young people not going to vote and I feel awful that I can’t.
‘It’s devastating because we know it’s the students’ futures who it’s going to affect and the students are the ones who can make the change.’
Describing the process of applying, the visual effects and motion graphics student, said: ‘It’s the same address we have to select from the drop down menu when we register and we can’t manually enter it.
‘We chased up about this and [the council] said they have problems with large student accommodations and not enough people dealing with the applications, and blamed us for registering “late” when I didn’t.’
Film student Samantha Hall, 20, said: ‘It’s bulls***. If I can input my post code on Dominoes and they give me the option to put my room number and manage to deliver my pizza, why can’t the council do that?’
But NUS Wales said that although students had errors in applications, it was up to the council to inform them to rectify any issues and say they should allow them to vote under the ‘extenuating circumstances’.
Rob Simkins, president of NUS Wales, said: ‘The students are really upset and deflated. Considering most are first time voters at this election and because it’s going to affect them the most… Cardiff Council has the ability to fix this, they are just deciding not to.’
He added: ‘Because they didn’t get in touch with these people, the onus is on the council.
‘When you input the postcode for Liberty on the Electoral Commission, it doesn’t exist. So there has been a lot of confusion.’
A Cardiff Council spokesperson said: ‘We do share the frustration of the students who were unable to get registered. However, considerable time and effort has been given to trying to contact those affected and of approximately 1,000 invalid applications, around 800 people have been contacted and successfully registered.
‘Of the rest, some failed to respond, others didn’t provide contact details and, unfortunately, due to the high volume of queries being dealt with, we were unable to contact all of those who made invalid applications.
‘It is the responsibility of the elector to validly register and there is no obligation on the Electoral Registration Officer to chase up invalid applications. This was not a clerical error on our part and we have done our best to try and contact all the people who applied using invalid addresses within the allowed timeline.
‘The national electoral registration gov.uk website allows electors to provide addresses manually when registering to vote and unfortunately, a number of people living have supplied incomplete addresses. Without the full and accurate address, including flat and room numbers, it is not possible to add individuals to the register.
‘Everyone registering on the site receives an auto confirmation message that the application has been sent to us, regardless if the information supplied is complete or not. We have raised concerns about this issue.’
An Electoral Commission spokeswoman said: ‘We are aware that Cardiff Council is currently dealing with enquiries from a number of students about their electoral registration status ahead of the UK general election.
‘We understand that the local electoral registration team has tried to contact as many affected people as possible to clarify their details so that they could be correctly reflected on the electoral register for the poll. If anyone has any questions about their registration status, they should contact the local authority directly.’
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