Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Voter registration in the UK

A couple years ago, the coalition government changed the way people register to vote. Following the American example (?), they made registration an individual responsibility. Before that registration was done by a head of household or by a membership organization, like a union. New voters in the upcoming election will have to be self-registered. Voters who were registered under the old system will be transferred to the new voter rolls.

A step forward? Good for individual responsibility? Voter suppression? An attack on Labour party voters?

This analysis is from the BBC Political Editor, Nick Robinson.

Why young people should register to vote
"Can I get you to vote?"

That's what I asked when I took my ballot box to the hair salon to ask a group of apprentices whether they're going to bother.

Their answers… were revealing. Some argued there was no point because the system was rigged against them and nothing changed. Others insisted that if you didn't vote you couldn't change things.

… A new opinion poll has shown that as many as 800,000 young people aged 18 to 21 will not be able to vote in the general election because they're not on the electoral roll. That poll for the Electoral Reform Society also showed that 24% of 18-to-21 year olds haven't registered to vote. Another 9% had no idea whether they were on the register at all.

Call it apathy, call it disaffection, call it what you like, it's a problem. Politicians will always focus on those who might vote for them and increasingly that means older people.

The new system of individual registration is making that problem worse. You used to be able to rely on your college or student union - or Mum or Dad - to do it but now you have to register yourself. Having said that it's easy to do - taking around three minutes online…

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At 9:59 AM, Blogger Ken Wedding said...

Alan Carter from Oxford, UK offered this report:

What is the extent of electoral fraud at English elections?
The emergence of electoral fraud as an issue in UK politics cannot be divorced, therefore, from changes in electoral law since the 1990s, which introduced provisions for proxy voting and the widespread availability of postal voting. In particular, the introduction of ‘postal voting on demand’ via the Representation of the People Act 2000 created obvious opportunities for malpractice, especially when combined with a ‘rather arcane’ system of electoral registration...

To be fair, the Electoral Commission has never been complacent about the risk of electoral fraud and, while it regards the number of convictions and cautions for fraud as minimal, the Commission has never claimed that levels of fraud are therefore ‘acceptable’. The Commission has long recognised the need for further safeguards against fraud and, since 2004, has consistently argued for the introduction of a system of individual voter registration, to replace the existing system of ‘household’ registration...


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