Fall In Young People Registered To Vote

15 May 2017, 06:21

Ballot Box

Campaigners have warned of a "looming registration disaster'' after figures revealed the number of 16 and 17-year-olds on the electoral register has fallen by more than a third since 2013.

The 35% drop between 2013 and 2016 - from 63,471 to 41,561 - is the highest in the UK from the nations that introduced a new voter registration system, the Electoral Reform Society (ERS) found.

Voters of the same age in England and Wales fell by 25% and 27% in the same period, while the UK overall saw a 27% drop.

The figures cover the introduction of Individual Electoral Registration (IER) in 2014, involving a change from a single person, usually a parent or lead tenant, registering everyone in the household on their behalf to each voter registering individually.

The change has improved the accuracy of the register but the ERS said the drop in young people on the roll is due to universities no longer being able to register students automatically and parents or guardians being unable to sign up their children.

Two of the 20 Westminster constituencies with the largest falls are Scottish; Angus at 61% and Dundee West at 59%.

In Northern Ireland, which introduced IER in 2002, the number of 16 and 17-year-olds on the electoral roll halved between 2013 and 2016.

ERS chief executive Katie Ghose 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 8.

"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 licences or moving home would go a long way to averting a looming registration disaster.''