Hopefully that got your attention. It’s the same idea for our General Election TV campaign where we show people stopped from doing things they thought they could. With voting you might think you’re able to vote, but unless you’re registered by 20 April you can’t for these elections. And a lot of people don’t realise they need to be or don’t get round to registering in time. Some people might not care but a lot of people do want to vote and will just miss out through not doing something that’s actually incredibly simple.
Oddly enough it happened to me in 2001. New to London and in a flat with my brother – who it’s fair to say wasn’t exactly obsessed with politics – I had no idea I wasn’t registered to vote or what the deadline was. Realising too late, I remember calling up Wandsworth council a week out from the election and getting all high and mighty about how I felt disenfranchised. But the deadline is the law and they had no choice. I didn’t vote in the 2001 General Election.
So registering to vote matters. A lot.
Politics and politicians might get a bad press but at the risk of mangling a quote from Churchill, no one has come up with anything better than democracy. We can make a lot of decisions on our own. What we eat, where we go holiday, what clothes we wear. But some things we can’t all decide individually. What we pay in tax and how it’s spent. If we go to war. Someone needs to make these decision for all of us and I’d much rather have had a say in who that was than pretend no one needed to.
We live in a democracy. Thank goodness. But a healthy democracy needs active citizens who’ll vote as much as it needs people to stand for election. And voting starts with being registered.
Here at the Electoral Commission we have been part of the huge effort to get people registered before the General Election at www.gov.uk/register-to-vote. We’re now doing one last push before the 20 April deadline and have teamed up with Twitter to make sure that as many people as possible hear the message.
If you’re one of the millions of Twitter users in Great Britain, you’ll see a reminder to register to vote when you login today. And it is worth remembering how much easier it is now. Until last summer you’d have had to fill out a paper form, sign it, put it in an envelope and post it off to your local Electoral Registration Officer. All online now and dead simple.
More and more people have been getting themselves registered – in fact over a million people have submitted an online application since we launched our main public awareness campaign on 16 March. The system has been particularly popular amongst young people, with more than 300,000 applications from 16-24-year olds.
How can you help? If you care as much about democracy as we do – my guess is you do if you’ve read this far – then please use that passion to shout as loudly as you can that the deadline to get registered is 20 April. Tell your friends, post on Facebook, tweet your followers, get your organisation behind it and share www.gov.uk/register-to-vote wherever and with whoever you can. And to join the conversation today on social media, use #registertovote
Director of Communications