Voter registration problems 'point to need for wider political change'

By staff writers
March 3, 2010

The Electoral Reform Society has said that new research on voter registration paints a "scandalous" picture, and points to the urgent need to address the underlying reasons why people are not engaging with the political system.

A report published by the Electoral Commission today (3 March) suggests that several million people will not be able to vote at the general election because they are not registered.

It also suggests that only a minority of the 17 – 24 age group are registered, and that large numbers of black and ethnic minority people will also be without a vote.

The Electoral Commission said research in eight areas had shown that 56 per cent of people aged 17 to 24 were unregistered. Among people from ethnic minority communities, the figure was 31 per cent.

Tackling this problem will, however, require political as well as administrative solutions, the Electoral Reform Society said.

Commenting on the Commission’s report, Ken Ritchie, the Society’s Chief Executive said: "With a general election only weeks away, the number of people who will be denied a vote because they are not on the electoral register is nothing short of scandalous. Electoral administrators must do everything in their power in the days ahead, particularly to get our next generation of voters on the register. Young voters are the future of any democracy, and we can’t risk seeing them slip through the net because of lacklustre local registration drives.

"But we need to ask why people are not registering to vote. We can only assume that increasing numbers are not bothering to register because they feel alienated by our present type of politics and have no interest in voting. If people really want to vote, it’s more likely they will make sure their names get onto the register.

"That’s one reason why we want a change in the voting system. We need a system that would make elections competitive in every constituency, to give voters more choice and produce a parliament that is more representative of ordinary voters and more effective in holding the government to account.

"While Gordon Brown has expressed his support for the Alternative Vote system, a move to AV is unlikely to do much to change the nature of politics. If the politicians were to go further and back STV, the proportional version of AV, then there would be a better chance that people would want to vote, and therefore want to register to vote."


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