missing millions

One in four young people have never registered to vote, new poll shows

5th February 2014
5 Feb 2014
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Almost one in four (24%) people aged 18-21 have never registered to vote, according to a new ComRes poll commissioned by the Electoral Reform Society. [1]

The shocking figure comes on the day of a nationwide campaign by pressure group Bite the Ballot to get as many people as possible on the electoral register. The inaugural National Voter Registration Day, on 5 February, sees schools, businesses and associations come together in an attempt to get 250,000 new names on the electoral register. A number of celebrities including Tinie Tempah and Eliza Doolittle are also backing the initiative. [2]

 Darren Hughes, Deputy Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said:

“Registering to vote is the first step towards participating in our democracy. With one in four young people not taking this step, that’s a lot of voices not being heard in our democratic process. Young people are less likely to register, and less likely to vote – and that has real consequences for the shape of our politics and the strength of our system.

“That’s why it is so important to get behind fantastic initiatives like Bite the Ballot’s National Voter Registration Day. The problem of under-registration, particularly among young people, needs the energy and focus of as many groups as possible if it is going to be solved. We urge all organisations and individuals who care about the future of our democracy to take part in getting as many young people as possible registered to vote.”

The survey also shows that less than half (46%) of the population registered themselves when they were first eligible to vote, with others either relying on someone else – such as a family member – to get them on the electoral register or not registering at all. Changes being introduced this year will mean that it will be everyone’s personal responsibility to get on the register. The new figures suggest that when these changes come in, millions will be at risk of going un-registered.

Darren Hughes added:

“For many people, getting on the register was something which their family did for them. But for young people who are about to become eligible to vote, that option will no longer be available and it will be up to them to register. The introduction of Individual Electoral Registration is an important and much-needed reform, but if it is not managed carefully then millions are at risk of going un-registered.”

ENDS

For more information, full poll results and interviews contact Will Brett on 07979 696 265 / will.brett@electoral-reform.org.uk

Notes

1.       A table showing the key poll results is here:

Q. Thinking back to when you were first eligible to register to vote in an election in the UK, who registered you to vote?

 

Registered by

Total % selected

18-21 year olds

22-25 year olds

26-29 year olds

Yourself

46%

32%

50%

55%


 

Parent / Guardian


28%


31%


27%


26%

School / College / University halls

2%

2%

4%

1%


Other family member


1%


1%


*


2%

Housemate / Flatmate

*

*

1%

*


 

Someone else


2%


1%


3%


1%

Never registered

11%

24%

7%

3%


Don’t know


10%


9%


8%


12%

 

 

 

 

 

Bases: All GB Adults aged 18-29 (n=904); aged 18-21 (n=206); aged 22-25 (n=371); aged 26-29 (n=327).

2. To find out more about Bite the Ballot’s National Voter Registration Day initiative, visit http://bitetheballot.co.uk/nvrd/

METHODOLOGY NOTE

ComRes interviewed 904 GB adults aged 18-29 between 22nd and 30th January 2014. Data were weighted to be representative of all GB adults aged 18-29. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

Statement on voter ID proposal

8th January 2014
8 Jan 2014
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missing millions
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The Electoral Commission today recommended that voters should be required to produce ID at the polling station as a measure to tackle electoral fraud. Katie Ghose, chief executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said in response:

 
“At a time when people are increasingly turning away from politics, it’s important that we do not put up new barriers to participation. Of course it is vital to tackle electoral fraud, but we have to be sure that by doing so we are not inadvertently contributing to the problem of voter disengagement.
 
“This year sees the biggest change to the way we vote since the universal franchise was established in 1928. Moving from household to individual electoral registration is hugely complex and needs to be executed to perfection if it is to avoid disenfranchising whole sections of the population.
 
“Meanwhile, more and more people are turning away from politics. With nearly half ‘angry’ at politicians and only 41% saying they’re certain to vote, you have to wonder whether this is the right time to be talking about making it harder to cast a ballot.
 
“At a time like this, we should be doing everything we can to get people on the register and into the polling station. We need to be thinking about how to make it easier for people to register to vote: for instance, we could offer the opportunity to register when people have other dealings with their local authority, or even at the polling station itself. And we need to be tackling voter disengagement by introducing much-needed reforms like local proportional representation and votes at 16.
 
“We should think very carefully before adding an extra hurdle for voters to negotiate before they are allowed to vote. The devil will be in the detail, of course, and we will await the Electoral Commission’s report on this issue later this year. What kind of ID will be required? Will it be a type of ID that automatically makes it harder for less well-off people to participate? And how much resource would be set aside to ensure that the public is made fully aware of this change? The last thing anyone wants to see is people being turned away from the polling station for administrative reasons.
 
“In short, let’s wait and see. But first of all, let’s concentrate on ushering in a registration revolution that gets more, not less, people on to the register. Let’s also focus our efforts on bringing people closer to politics, not turning them away.”

Millions still at risk of falling off electoral register

4th July 2013
4 Jul 2013
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voter registration
missing millions
individual electoral registration

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Millions still at risk of falling off electoral register

The Electoral Reform Society has welcomed the government’s commitment to boosting the number of people who register to vote[1], but warns against the real dangers which still exist around the policy of individual electoral registration.
 
Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said: “The government appears to have recognised the risk that millions of people may fall off the electoral register and become effectively disenfranchised as a result of individual electoral registration. But this comes late in the day, and the dangers are still all too real.
 
“It’s good news that local groups and local authorities will now have the chance to win resources to put towards solving the urgent problem of people not being registered to vote. And it’s absolutely right that these efforts should focus on groups which are particularly at risk, such as young people and those who live in social housing.
 
“However, when you’re talking about trying to prevent literally millions of people[2] from falling off the register, you need to throw a lot of resources at the problem. We’re concerned that today’s offer won’t nearly be enough to close the gap. And the government’s policy still has serious weaknesses. For instance, the fact that the new system will come in shortly before a general election risks a big fall in voter turnout in 2015.
“There are practical steps the government could take to improve voter registration. For instance we believe they should consider making it possible for people to put themselves on the electoral register on the day of an election. This kind of system could even be extended so that whenever people interact with government – for instance when they collect their pensions or benefits – they are able to get on the register.”
 
The ERS previously campaigned successfully for changes to the government’s policy on individual electoral registration[3]. These included:

Removing the ability for people to ‘opt out’ of being on the register


Ensuring that it remained compulsory for citizens to place themselves on the register


Retaining the annual canvass

 
For more information or comment, contact mediaoffice@electoral-reform.org.uk or call Will Brett on 07979 696 265.


[1] Chloe Smith, Minister for Political and Constitutional Reform, today announced a new drive by the Government to get people on to the electoral register:
 

  

 

The Missing Millions still at risk

23rd May 2012
23 May 2012
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ier
individual electoral registration
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The Missing Millions still at risk

The second reading of the Individual Electoral Registration bill to fundamentally change the way we register to vote began today with Labour issuing a reasoned amendment against the bill.

Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, commented:

This bill is the right move but it needs to be introduced in the right way. If millions of British voters are left without a say, British democracy will suffer.

‘During this time of change, when the register will be at its most vulnerable, it should not be used as the basis for the boundary changes.

‘Under current proposals we could see poorer areas of the country, often the areas most in need of representation, receiving less representation than richer areas where people are more likely to be registered. This is fundamentally undemocratic.

‘We are recommending that the government use population figures instead as these are likely to provide a more accurate picture.’

Labour’s reasoned amendment also raises concerns about the bill’s impact on the completeness of the register. Katie continues

We share some of Labour’s concerns regarding the impact on younger people, older people, some ethnic minorities and those who move house and are asking the government to develop a safety net to ensure the ‘Missing Millions’ does not come to pass.

‘Right before a general election is no time for shortcuts. The government should be removing the hurdles to voting, not putting up new ones.’

The Electoral Reform Society is asking that the Government publish the secondary legislation urgently, to ensure that there is enough time to develop the necessary safety measures to protect against losing millions of people from the register.

ENDS

View Labour’s reasoned amendment

Notes to Editors
1. The Electoral Reform Society is an independent campaigning organisation working to champion the rights of voters and improve UK democracy.
2. To find out more visit www.electoral-reform.org.uk
3. Civil society and EROs raise issues with plans for IER in Missing Millions report

Government remains deaf to warnings on voter registration

10th May 2012
10 May 2012
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ier
individual voter registration
voting
individual electoral registration
electoral roll
missing millions
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Government remains deaf to warnings on voter registration

The Electoral Reform Society has responded to the publication of the Electoral Registration and Administration Bill, a fundamental change to the way we register to vote that experts warn could lead to millions of voters ‘falling off’ the register.

The Society - which led calls for change to the government’s deeply flawed White Paper in their Missing Millions campaign - has welcomed the changes that have been made, but warns that without a meaningful safety net the government still risks alienating millions of voters right before the 2015 general election. Older people, young people and those who move house are likely to be the groups worst affected.

Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society said:

We welcome the fact that the government has finally listened to reason on many of our concerns but the devil is in the detail. The bill might work on paper, but making it work in practice is another matter. Older people, younger people and any of us planning on moving home are still in danger of slipping through the cracks.

‘The government continue to ignore the warnings from registration officers and charities who are all saying the same thing: that crossing their fingers and hoping for the best is not good enough. We need a safety net to ensure that millions of us do not lose our say at the next election.’

‘There is still a lot of work to be done. This massive change comes in right before a General Election and is no time for shortcuts. If millions of British voters don’t have a say, British democracy will suffer.’

The new system will mean that everyone has to register themselves with proof of their identity, recognising the need for individuals to have ownership over their vote and helping to guard against fraud. The bill is the right move but the Electoral Reform Society has been a leading voice in calling for it to be implemented in the right way.

Katie continued:

We’re delighted that the government has responded to our call for a full annual canvass in 2014 as without it anyone who moved home or turned 18 between December 2013 and May 2015 would not even have been invited to register under Individual Electoral Registration.

‘It’s also extremely encouraging that the government have listened to reason on the opt-out which would have allowed people to simply tick a box to ‘opt out’ of registering. This was absurd: It’s not a mailing list, its British democracy and nobody should be ‘opting out’.

ENDS

For more information on the Electoral Reform Society’s calls for changes to the legislation on Individual Electoral Registration see our Missing Millions campaign

Notes to Editors

  1. The Electoral Commission has warned the change could bring registration rates down from over 80% to as little as 65%. See Electoral Commission response to Government white paper.
  2. Electoral Reform Society response to the White Paper
  3. Civil society and EROs raise issues with plans for IER in Missing Millions report
  4. The Electoral Reform Society is an independent campaigning organisation working to champion the rights of voters and improve UK democracy.
  5. To find out more visit www.electoral-reform.org.uk

The Government response on Individual Electoral Registration

9th February 2012
9 Feb 2012
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individual voter registration
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individual electoral registration
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The Government response on Individual Electoral Registration

Today the Government has issued its response to the pre-legislative scrutiny and public consultation on Individual Electoral Registration (IER).

IER is due to be rolled out in 2014, the year before the next General Election. It will mean shifting from household registration where a ‘head of the household’ registers everyone at their address, to individuals taking responsibility for registering themselves. It is widely accepted as the right move for guarding against fraud but there remain concerns about the way the change is going to be implemented.

Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society says:

We’re pleased to see that the Government has moved on some of our key concerns: Retaining the 2014 canvass is fundamental, without it the move to IER would disenfranchise millions of us who might simply move house in the eight months before the change is introduced.

‘It is concerning that the Government remains confused about its position on the ‘opt-out’. During the consultation process Registration Officers were clear that this bizarre new addition would seriously undermine the importance of registering to vote and would harm the completeness of the register. The Government needs to be clear about this. There is no excuse for the opt-out sneaking into the new legislation.

This is a huge change and needs to be done right. The year before a General Election is no time for shortcuts and it is vital that the legislation is not rushed through without proper consideration of the impact it will have on ordinary voters.’

Ends

For more information or to speak to a spokesperson call Sophie Langridge in the media office on 07757 743354.

Notes to Editors

The proposed changes to the draft legislation on Individual Electoral Registration and what they mean.
 

  • The Annual Canvass

The Government has moved on their initial plans to introduce IER with a write-out to everyone on the register as it stands at December 2013 (plus any rolling updates).

Government response: “We have listened to concerns that there is no full household canvass in 2014.To ensure that a more accurate and up to date register is used as the basis of the new register we are also planning to delay the annual canvass in 2013 to the early part of 2014.”

This is the right move as it is vital that the electoral roll is as up to date as possible before the introduction of IER and the next General Election. While we welcome this development we will be watching carefully to ensure that Electoral Registration Officers are given adequate resources to complete an accurate 2014 canvass to repair the damage done by scrapping the canvass in 2013.
 

  • The Opt-Out

The Government’s proposals take a significant step from requiring registration to making it a matter of choice. The Government report says it ‘unequivocally believes’ voting is a civic duty but an ‘opt out’ is at odds with the principle of civic duty.

Government response: “As we made clear last year, we are minded to amend this provision and intend either to retain the ‘opt out’ but require a person wishing to do so to complete a separate application, or to entirely remove this option altogether.”

Under the current draft legislation, registering will not be compulsory, it will be a personal choice as to whether to respond to Electoral Registration Officers (EROs) request to complete an application form. Citizens will be entitled to ‘opt out’ of registration by indicating that they do not wish to receive further information or invitations to register. If they choose to ‘opt out’ EROs will not contact them again during that canvass period.

It is important to ensure that the incentives not to register do not outweigh the incentives to do so. Research on public attitudes to voting has highlighted a number of reasons people fail to register including a reluctance to give out personal details, fear of filling in forms or simply not wishing to be bothered with it. Creating an opt out is likely to see a number of people not registering for reasons not associated with voting - either because of the process itself or for more specific deterrents such as avoiding jury service, council tax, credit agencies.

Removing disincentives to opt out coupled with the relative ease at which it will be possible to opt out, is highly likely to have serious repercussions for registration levels.
 

  • Data Matching

The Government plans to use data matching to fill in some of the holes in the register. Data matching means checking the data on the register up against other national databases that the government has (i.e. Drivers licence, NHS records etc.). This data matching will be particularly targeted on home movers, who are one of the groups most likely to fall off the register.

Concerns were raised in the consultation about the quality of some of this data and problems which may arise as a result. There were also concerns raised by Electoral Registration Officers (EROs) about the appropriateness of some of this data.

There are currently data matching pilots being conducted twenty two different areas of the country. A report by the Electoral Commission is due on data matching in March but the Government appears to have pre-judged the results, claiming that “we are confident that the pilots suggest that this can add real value and intend to carry out further pilots to refine the approach further, and to develop an efficient and effective system ready in time to support the implementation of IER.”

Some early results of the data matching pilots show that it is more difficult in areas which already have low levels of registration and where there are the largest fears of a fall in the numbers of people on the electoral register (Tower Hamlets and Newham). This suggests that the government’s plans would not actually help to target the groups already missing from the registers.
 

Further Background

In October 2011 the Electoral Reform Society organised a cross-party roundtable which included local and national officials working on registration, and key organisations representing groups facing exclusion from the register. The report Missing Millions is available to download.

For further information see http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/voter-registration

Westminster wakes up to the Missing Millions: Voter Registration

4th November 2011
4 Nov 2011
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ier
individual voter registration
voting
individual electoral registration
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Westminster wakes up to the Missing Millions

The Electoral Reform Society has welcomed publication of

the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee’s report into Individual Electoral Registration (IER).

The Society, which gave evidence to the Committee in September, has predicted “catastrophic” results if legislation proceeds as planned. The Committee has backed the Society’s key recommendations.

Earlier this month the Society organised a cross-party roundtable which included local and national official’s working on registration, and key organisations representing groups facing exclusion from the register. The consensus is clear – these proposals must change.
Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society said:
 
This report is welcome reading for anyone interested in our democracy. Westminster was sleepwalking towards a catastrophic drop in voter registration. We’re pleased politicians have finally woken up to the problem. These missing millions are avoidable, and the government must now take heed.”

“The Committee is right to support maintaining the annual canvass and the threat of penalty. The government’s proposals mean councils would have no carrot, no stick and no opportunity to target hard to reach citizens. If we want a complete and accurate register, then officials need the tools to get the job done.
 

 “The government was making it possible for citizens to ‘opt out’ from democracy. Being on the register is not just about rights, it’s about responsibilities. It determines how public services are delivered, underpins the right to trial by jury of your peers, and sets how political boundaries are drawn.
 
“If the government listens we have the chance to make voter registration work.”
 
As one roundtable attendee Michael Summerville, Electoral Registration Officer for London Borough of Hackney said:
 
We have spent years building up the register. We're concerned that all that work will be undone. We could be looking at a 20-30,000 drop from a register of 165,000."
 
"I don't see how we'll have the time to prepare for IER on the back of the 2014 Elections. We're already losing resources." 

 
Missing Millions: Roundtable on Individual Electoral Registration was held on Tuesday 18th October in the Houses of Parliament. A full report is available for download here…
 
Key Points on IER:
 
The report is a response to The Individual Electoral Registration White Paper, published on 30th June, detailing the process for replacing traditional household with individual electoral registration from 2014.
 
The government proposes providing an ‘opt-out’ from registration, and a removal of the threat of legal penalty for those failing to register. It is also planning to drop the full household Annual Canvass in 2014.
 
  • Currently there are an estimated 3.5 million unregistered voters in England & Wales – 10% of eligible citizens
 
  • As many as 10 million voters could fall off the register under the government’s plans to introduce Individual Electoral Registration - a decline to 35- 40% of eligible citizens according to Electoral Commission estimates.
 
  • This is likely to have a disproportionate impact on already under registered groups – Young people, people in social or rented accommodation and certain black and ethnic minority communities could easily fall through the net.
 
  • The current proposals will have a number of unintended consequences.
 
    • The electoral register is used for drawing boundaries and assisting Local Authorities with the planning and provision of public services.
    • It forms the basis for drawing constituency boundaries and for selecting people for jury service.
    • Political parties use it for campaigning. And it assists local authorities with the planning and provision of public services and social welfare.
 
By depleting the register the UK Government risks further excluding people who are already excluded.
 
  • The Next boundary review will be based on imprint of electoral register in December 2015. A severely depleted register will lead to even more radical in the 2016-7 boundary review.
 
The Electoral Reform Society’s top recommendations
 
The UK Government should:
 
  • Drop the proposal for individuals to ‘opt out’ from being asked to register within a specific period, and maintain the threat of legal penalty to individuals who fail to register;
  • Maintain the full household Annual Canvass in 2014;
  • Publish a plan on how the projected drop in the number of registered individuals, particularly in socially excluded groups, will be prevented.
 
Contacts:
Please contact the press office on 020 7202 8601 or Ashley Dé on 07968791684 or Sophie Langridge 07757743354

Email mediaoffice@electoral-reform.org.uk

The Missing Millions – government needs to think again on voter registration.

16th September 2011
16 Sep 2011
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individual voter registration
voting
individual electoral registration
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missing millions
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The Electoral Reform Society has urged the government to think again on potentially 'catastrophic' proposals on electoral registration.

The Society warned MPs this week that plans to scrap the 2014 canvass and drop the legal duty for citizens to register could have a dire affect on registration rates. It is now asking parliamentarians to throw their support behind Chris Ruane MP’s Early Day Motion and debate the full impact of IVR.

Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society said:


We welcome the government’s plan to move on Individual Voter Registration, but we’re convinced the switch will cause a catastrophic fall in registered voters unless action is taken now. 

The government risks disenfranchising millions – including some of the most underprivileged and hardest to reach Britons who need a voice in parliament.

According to the Government’s own Impact Assessment the transition to Individual Voter Registration could mean 20% or 7 million voters will drop off the register. This is equivalent of the entire population of Greater London no longer having a say in our democracy. And it’s not good enough.

Chris Ruane has already tabled an Early Day Motion calling on the government to think again.  It deserves the full support of all democrats in the House.

Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society said:
Notes to editors: