A Union of Jewish Students campaign urging students to register to vote in the May 1 elections was launched at the National Union of Students’ conference in Blackpool this week.
The Your Voice Not Theirs campaign aims to prevent the British National Party from gaining a foothold in the local and London Assembly elections by ensuring that students are aware of their voting rights while away from home.
Yair Zivan, campaigns director at UJS, told the JC: “Students are politically minded — more than the rest of the population on average. But apathy and lack of knowledge can be a problem. Just because you’re not at university in London doesn’t mean you can’t vote there.
“A lot of people don’t know you have to register before you can vote, and that registration is not automatic.”
Students can vote in their home constituency or where they are residents, provided they have registered first. They must register by April 16.
Mr Zivan said: “Low turnout favours extreme fringe groups like the BNP. The prospect of the BNP being on the London Assembly, getting part of the budget with portfolios assigned to them, in a major city, is frightening.
“Where the BNP have been elected in the past there has been a rise in the rhetoric of the far right, which allows them to shape the agenda. It’s dangerous for Jewish students to have that kind of racism given an official platform.
“Your Voice Not Theirs is primarily aimed at the Jewish community but we want to broaden it to as many people as possible.”
UJS students were jubilant this week at the election of Wes Streeting, a Labour student, as NUS president. “He has been incredibly supportive to UJS in all our campaigns,” a UJS spokesman said. “In fact, the first thing he did after winning the election was to pay tribute to Jewish students. This is the best possible result for us.”