General election 2019: Why it matters and how to vote

31 October 2019

With a general election now just around the corner on Thursday 12 December, we tell you all you need to know about how to have your voice heard and why it’s so important as students to participate.

Sticker on a person's finger reading 'I Voted'

We all know that it’s a turbulent time in politics. 31 October was due to be the date that the UK left the European Union, but this has now been delayed to 31 January of next year. In the meantime, with support from opposition parties, the UK government has now called a general election, which will be held on Thursday 12 December.

About this election

It’s the first time we’ve had a general election in December since 1923. Some have asked if the weather, shorter days or other factors such as pre-Christmas event bookings might reduce turnout. However, the highest turnout ever recorded in a UK general election was in 1950, when 84% of the electorate voted on 23 February.

The 2019 general election may have major implications for the UK in the near future, especially the outcome of Brexit.

The current Conservative government under Boris Johnson does not have a majority – it’s hoping to regain this in the general election so it can more easily pass legislation.

The Labour party under Jeremy Corbyn is also hoping to win a majority by building upon its gains in the previous general election, which happened in 2017.

Other significant parties include the Liberal Democrats, the Brexit Party, the Green Party, the Scottish National Party and other regional parties in Wales and Northern Ireland.

Read a simple guide to the 2019 general election from the BBC.

View the latest opinion polls on the BBC website.

Who can vote?

In order to vote, you must be:

  • 18 or over on the day of the election
  • A British or Irish citizen, or a citizen of another Commonwealth country who has leave to enter or remain in the UK, or who doesn’t require that leave
  • Resident at an address in the UK (if you’re a British citizen, you can also vote if you’re living abroad)
  • Not legally excluded from voting
  • Registered to vote

Read an article about registering to vote as a Commonwealth citizen, written by one of our students.

How do I register?

It’s easy and quick to register to vote – you can do this online in just a few minutes. Make sure you’re registered by the deadline, or you’ll miss your opportunity to vote and have your say.

Register to vote here.

Registering to vote can have the additional benefit of strengthening your credit score, since you'll be added to the electoral register.

The deadline for registering to vote is Tuesday 26 November.

What happens on the day?

Once you’re registered, you’ll be sent a polling card in the post. This shows you where your polling station is, which will usually be in a nearby school or community centre. Don’t worry if you forget to take your polling card on the day, as you can just give your name and address.

UCL’s first term finishes one day after the election on Friday 13 December, so you probably won’t have gone home yet for the Christmas break.

If you’re from the UK and have already gone home by election day, you can vote there. Students can vote using either their home address or their term-time address, but it’s illegal to vote at both locations.

Depending on turnout and the time of day you visit the polling station, you may find you need to queue. However, once you’re in the polling station, voting general only takes a few minutes.

Polling stations will be open from 7am to 10pm on election day. You can go at any time, but to avoid queuing it may be better to go in the late morning or early afternoon if you have some free time.

Voting itself is very easy, no more than marking next to your chosen candidate with pencil – just follow the instructions!

What if I’m away?

If you’re away or abroad on election day, you can also apply to vote by post or by proxy (nominating someone else like a family member to vote on your behalf). There’s a separate application for this, and you’ll need to make sure you send this off before the deadline.

Read more about how to vote from the UK government.

By UCL Student Support and Wellbeing