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Remain Campaigners Fear Students May Be Registering To Vote In The Wrong Place

Students who have registered in their university town but will be elsewhere on EU referendum day risk not being able to vote if they don't re-register or apply to vote by post.

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Remain campaigners are worried that students may be registering to vote in the wrong place and will not be able to vote in the EU referendum.

The concern is that all the work student unions have done in getting students registered at university may not be helpful for the referendum on 23 June.

Some universities, such as Sheffield University, have voter registration as part of their enrolment process, and many students will automatically assume they are registered. However, this isn't necessarily the case as they will have registered in the wrong place if they're back at home on election day and haven’t applied to vote by post.

Clifford Fleming, national coordinator for Students for Europe, told BuzzFeed News: "With over 4 million students across the UK who can vote, 9% of the total electorate, there is a concern that the date could cause confusion and students will register in the wrong place. This could have a significant impact on the vote on June 23rd."

The National Union of Students (NUS) says it raised the issue when the election date was set. A spokesperson told BuzzFeed: "NUS raised its concerns over the date of the referendum when it was announced. The change to the voter registration process means that those with more transient living situations, which obviously included university students, are most at risk from falling off the electoral register."

Electoral Commission guidelines on this potential issue could, at first glance, appear contradictory. Students are entitled to register at both their home address and their university address. The guidelines state that those already registered to vote do not need to re-register. However, elsewhere, they clarify that if you move home before the EU referendum registration deadline on 7 June, then you will need to re-register.

A spokesperson for the commission said: "Students can choose to register to vote at either or both their term-time or home addresses. Anyone who won’t be in the area where they are registered to vote on polling day, on 23 June, should apply for a postal or proxy (when someone you trust votes on your behalf) so they can still take part in the referendum. Deadlines for registering to vote, and applying to vote by post or proxy are online at www.aboutmyvote.co.uk and in the impartial voting guide the commission will be sending out from 16 May."

The NUS, which is campaigning for Britain to reman in the EU, has put together a guide to help get students involved in the vote. Its spokesperson said: “Student unions ran exciting, diverse and engaging voter registration activities for last year’s general elections, and they’re going through the process all over again for the EU referendum. NUS, UUK [Universities UK] and other organisations have been working with student unions and students to make sure they’re registering both at university and at home.”

Will Straw, director of Britain Stronger in Europe, commented: “Young people have most to gain from staying in the EU and will be most affected if we leave, including fewer jobs, higher prices, and more barriers to working or travelling in Europe.

“So it’s vital students register to vote in the area they will be on 23 June or apply for a postal vote, so they can make their voice heard and help keep Britain stronger, safer and better off in Europe.”

Fleming said that the Students for Europe campaign group is working to ensure the “where will you be on the date of the EU referendum?” message gets out, and is holding a national action day on Monday 16 May across more than 30 universities.

Vote Leave was contacted for comment for this story, but had yet to respond at the time of publication.