Electoral 'time bomb' as number of school leavers on electoral roll falls

By agency reporter
May 16, 2017

Campaigners are warning of a ‘registration time bomb’, as analysis by the Electoral Reform Society shows the proportion of school leavers on the electoral roll dropped by over a quarter between 2013 and 2016 – with most of those now eligible to vote in this election.
 
With a week to go before the deadline to register for the vote on June 8th, the ERS are calling for the ‘biggest ever push’ to register young people who may have fallen off the electoral roll.
 
The figures cover the time when Individual Electoral Registration (IER) was introduced in 2014 – which saw a shift from a single person (usually a parent or lead tenant) registering everyone in the household on their behalf, to each voter having to register individually.
 
While the move to IER has improved the accuracy of the register, it has seen a significant fall in the number of young people on the electoral roll, which campaigners understand is a result of universities no longer being able to register students automatically, and parents/guardians no longer registering children on their behalf. 
 
Of the nations which introduced IER in 2014, Scotland has seen the biggest drop in the number of ‘attainers’ (16 and 17 year olds on the register), at 35 per cent, followed by Wales (27 per cent) and England (25 per cent).
 
Many of the areas which have seen the biggest drop have large black and minority ethnic communities – such as Hackney and Bethnal Green and Bow in London – suggesting school leavers from already marginalised groups have not re-registered since parents/guardians stopped signing them up.      
 
Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said:  “These findings should sound the alarm to young people across the country that they need to register to vote if they want to have their say on June 8th.
 
“There is a real risk that this election could be one where the registration time bomb goes off – leaving hundreds of thousands without a voice. The collapse in the number of 16 and 17 year olds on the register in 2016 is a warning sign to anyone who cares about political engagement and young people’s stake in our democracy.
 
“With just a week to go to register in time for the General Election, it’s vital that the new generation of potential voters – people who may have fallen off the electoral roll since the registration system was changed – sign up before it’s too late.
 
“All the evidence shows that voting is habitual – if you start young, you’ll vote for life. Today’s findings suggest not enough is being done to ensure Britain’s young people are on the electoral roll.
 
“With nearly seven million people not on the electoral roll or incorrectly registered, we need a registration revolution in this country – including giving dedicated time in schools for pupils to enrol and reviewing the ban on universities signing up students automatically.
 
“Moves towards automatic registration so that people have the chance to sign up when getting pensions, driving licenses or moving home would go a long way to averting a looming registration disaster.  
 
“Whether it’s improving citizenship education, or trialling same-day registration, there is plenty that can be done to revitalise our democratic processes.
 
“Whatever the case, we need action – or we risk losing a whole generation of voters.”

* Electoral Reform Society http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/

Ekklesia's General Election theme for 2017 is #Vote4CommonGood. This will be explored by writers and researchers from different perspectives and backgrounds, as well as analysis of the different party manifestos in relation to the principles and policies we have advocated for many years. See: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/vote4commongoodintro

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