Part of the Electoral Commission’s role includes publishing data on what parts of the electorate are less likely to be registered to vote. This means that organisations like The Forum can then take this to both segment and analyse it to understand who is registered, who is not and why different sections of society may display differing registration trends. One trend that we have been tracking for some years now is the lower voter registration levels among black and minority ethnic (BME) groups in comparison to those who identify as being white British.
So what exactly do we know about this trend?
- In 2011 we found that 89% of white British people in England and Wales were registered to vote. This was the highest level of any ethnic group and was significantly higher than all other ethnic groups.
- Although the BME community has relatively lower levels of registration as a whole, there is variation within it. In England and Wales for example, 85% of those identifying as Indian were registered to vote compared to 73% of those who identified as African. In fact, across Great Britain, among Asians, those whose ethnicity is Indian have the highest level of completeness. Among black people, those with Caribbean origin had a higher registration rate than those with African origin.
Why does this matter? There are a number of elements which are required to have a healthy democracy, and high levels of participation from across the electorate is just one of these. We consider the gateway to participation is the electoral register, which is why we want to make sure that everyone who is eligible to be on it, is. Given this belief and all of the data on non-registration, you may ask what is being done to help equalise registration levels across ethnic groups in Great Britain. We have discussed our public awareness and registration work previously here, so today we are handing over to one of our partner organisations, The Forum, to tell you what they have and are doing in communities to encourage registration.
“At The Forum we first began encouraging all communities to register to vote in the run up to the local and European elections in 2014. In just two months, a team of talented people from different migrant and refugee backgrounds collectively helped register over 4857 individuals to vote from across London. Now, in partnership with the Electoral Commission, The Forum is expanding our work to include running Voter Registration Training sessions and community action to get the message out there all the way to the registration deadline on 20 April.
The Forum was set up in 1993 by migrant and refugee community leaders to address their communities’ integration needs – ranging from lack of services to institutional discrimination in immigration, health, education, welfare and employment. The Forum has addressed these needs through holistic, innovative and migrant and refugee-led initiatives.
After the local and European elections we evaluated the achievements from 2014, together with community leaders, we asked ourselves; what can we learn from this experience and how can we do things better for future elections? Since then we have been putting into practice key learnings from this exercise through working with partners, and developing our new training sessions to get people excited about their power and the impact that they can have in elections. Our training sessions have been developed with Citizens UK, and utilise some of the practical tools of Community Organising.
The recent report from the Migrants Rights Network outlines that ‘The migrant electorate could have decisive power in a range of key marginal seats across England and Wales: in at least 70 seats the migrant share of the electorate in 2015 is twice as large as the current majority share of the incumbent party’. This report highlights the potential for migrant communities to become more visible through registering to vote and turning out on May 7 2015.
The Forum is strictly nonpartisan, we never tell anyone who to vote for. We just want to make sure people are using their voter power for themselves and their communities, to increase the visibility of our different communities and hold politicians accountable. Being part of the Electoral Commission’s campaign and building on this with our own targeted activity is a great way for us to do this.
To keep up to speed with our events please see our own blog.
If you would like to get involved with us on voter registration we would love to hear from you! Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to do this.”
Krissie Nicolson – Community Organiser, The Forum