Youth registration surge: We need long-term reform to bring in the ‘missing millions’

Posted on the 31st October 2019

  • Statement from the Electoral Reform Society for immediate release, 31st October 2019

Commenting on a surge in electoral registration applications, particularly among young people [1], Willie Sullivan, Senior Director of the Electoral Reform Society, said:

“This surge in applications is welcome, but with up to 9.4m people missing from the electoral roll, there’s a long way to go before we close the registration gap. This election campaign is starting from a democratically dubious position, with campaigners rushing to register people while also trying to discuss the real issues.

“This huge registration backlog is a real issue of political inequality, with stark differences in registration levels among different groups. Younger people and renters are most at risk of being missing from the register, so it’s welcome to see this surge in registrations from the ‘missing millions’.

“We cannot be complacent – this election must see the biggest registration drive this country has seen to ensure it genuinely represents all of us. Fundamentally though, all parties need to commit to ensuring we have a universal franchise – where registration isn’t the luck of the draw but is part of your guaranteed voter rights.

“It’s an annoying reality that many of these applications will be already on the register, since there’s no way to check online if you are already registered. Our registration system has improved in recent years but it still lags behind many other countries. Let’s make this the last time we see a manic registration rush – putting strain on local electoral offices – and deal with this when Parliament returns.”


Notes to Editors


Stats on registration

Voter Registration – changes needed:

  • A registration revolution to bring electoral registration into the 21st century with the aim of improving the accuracy and completeness of the electoral registers, and making registration easier and more in line with citizens’ daily lives
  • A motor voter law so citizens can register to vote whenever they are in contact with the government
  • An online look-up service – whether centralised or separate for each local authority – to allow people to check if they have already registered to vote
  • In the absence of moves towards more automatic registration, same-day registration or voting anywhere in a constituency could be trialled


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