Here at the Electoral Commission, we are throwing our full weight behind National Voter Registration Day (NVRD) – a welcome initiative that was initially launched by Bite the Ballot last year and that we hope will command wide support again this year. Nobody wants to see people miss out on having their say at the UK Parliamentary General Election because they didn’t realise they had to be registered to vote and NVRD is a great way to get this message across to people.
Of course, the fact that there’s a National Voter Registration Day in the first place indicates that more needs to be done to get people registered. The Commission published research last summer that showed around 7.5 million people were not correctly registered at their current address in Great Britain. This is a cause for concern for anyone that cares about our democracy and we are pleased that so many organisations are helping to support the work that Electoral Registration Officers (EROs) and their teams across the country are doing to get people registered.
We know from our research that students and young people; those from certain BME communities; and people who have recently moved are among those that are less likely to be registered. We also know that many British citizens living overseas who could be registered, are not. So we are working with a range of partners to target these groups in particular so they know what they have to do to register to vote.
We all know that moving home can be a stressful experience at the best of times. So it’s perhaps not surprising that adding yourself to the electoral register is not the first thing on your to-do-list. Similarly, if you’ve just moved into halls of residence or your first flat share at university, registering to vote may not be an immediate priority.
As part of the move to Individual Electoral Registration – which has finally replaced the outdated concept of us all being registered by a ‘head of the household’ – you can now register to vote online. This should make the system more accessible to many of us, including people in these under registered groups. It now takes just a few minutes to complete a registration form online at http://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote. It’s quick, easy and convenient and millions of people have already taken advantage of it. Surveys also seem to indicate that they have found their experience of the new process a positive one.
Online registration is a major advantage in getting people onto the register, but equally important is the work that EROs at local authorities are doing on the ground. Many are supporting NVRD and they have been working hard for the past few months to get people onto the register, work that will continue right up to the registration deadline on 20 April.
The Electoral Commission is supporting their efforts. In addition to the guidance and template resources we have provided them, we are also launching a major national online and TV advertising campaign to encourage people to register to vote. In fact, you can already see one of our ads – ‘Ballot Box Man’ on our Youtube channel here. Please feel free to share this through your own online channels.
And that’s not all we are doing. As I have already indicated, we’re also working with a range of partners from the voluntary, public and private sectors to spread the registration message and it has been fantastic to see so many organisations get involved. It’s great to see so many people working together to make sure that as many people as possible can get registered and make their voice heard on May 7th.
All of us should use NVRD as an opportunity to remind people to register to vote. So why not post a link on your Facebook profile or on Twitter directing people to the online registration page. We’ve even created template tweets and social media posts for you to use, so it’s easy as it can be to get involved.
So let’s all get together to get behind NVRD. And let’s all use the momentum this generates to make sure as many people as possible are registered before the deadline on 20 April. Get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org to get involved.
Chair of the Electoral Commission