Hundreds of first-time voters flocked to polling stations around Cathays and Cardiff city centre to cast their vote for the general election this morning.
Rather than voting in their home constituencies, many Cardiff University students were at their Students’ Union bright and early to have their say on who should become the next Member of Parliament for Cardiff Central.
There are always a great number of creative ways for students to take a break from revising for exams, and it seems this year voting can be added to the list.
But some believed the timing of the election – right in the middle of the exam period – might have a detrimental effect on the student vote.
Matt Alderson, of Llanbleddian Gardens, said: “I think a lot of students are prioritising exams around now, which is annoying. A few weeks ago I was reading the papers on a regular basis but that hasn’t happened as much recently, so I don’t know as much about the candidates as I might do.”
Many of the first-time voters seemed swayed by the press coverage leading up to the election, with the televised leaders’ debates playing on a lot of people’s minds, but several voters in Cardiff Central have kept a close eye on developments right up to polling day.
Student Joe Armitage, also of Llanbleddian Gardens, revealed Johann Hari’s article in yesterday’s Independent impacted on his voting, while Salisbury Road resident Elizabeth Elton-Walters deemed a number of factors, including the TV debates, responsible for the direction in which she voted.
While the leadership debates may have put Messrs Brown, Cameron and Clegg at the forefront of voters’ minds, any fears about constituents voting for a quasi-president were largely dispelled by voters’ accounts of meetings with their local parliamentary candidates.
Liberal Democrat MP Jenny Willott was voted in in 2005 after 13 years of Labour Co-Operative dominance, partly thanks to the student vote, and her personal approach appears to have struck a chord with some voters.
Speaking outside the polling station on Harriet Street in Cathays, students Jack Hansen and Jen Menin, both of Woodville Road, outlined their respect for the MP’s policies on asylum. Indeed Mr Hansen even recalled meeting Ms Willott, who is standing for re-election, when she spoke to members of his refugee charity.
Ms Willott is one of nine candidates standing for election in Cardiff Central, with candidates for the Monster Raving Loony Party and the Trade Unionist and Socialist Party up against those from the more traditional parties.
And regardless of which way people are voting, it is good to see a new generation of voters embracing democracy at the first opportunity.
First-time voter Craig Lewis, of Ruthin Gardens, believes a great number of students too young to vote in the 2005 election are keen to have their voice heard this time round.
Mr Lewis said: “I think a lot of people are going to be voting this time. There seems to be a lot of enthusiasm, with people watching the debates on television, and there is a sense you can really make a difference.”