Lords set to vote on getting young people onto electoral register

Three-quarters of 16-17 year olds aren't on the electoral register.

The House of Lords will vote tonight on whether the government should take measures to increase the number of young people who are registered to vote.

A group of Lords from different parties has proposed an amendment to the ‘Parliamentary Constituencies Bill’, which would require the government to improve the completeness of electoral registers.

One of the Lords, the Liberal Democrat’s David Shutt said: “As it stands, this bill risks ignoring millions of young people when the new boundaries are drawn. Young people of 16- and 17 already have the lowest rates of electoral registration, far below that of older citizens and, most worryingly, these rates continue to fall.

To be able to vote in the UK, you currently have to actively sign up to be on the ‘electoral register’ at your current address at least 12 working days before an election.

This rule means that young people, who tend to move home more and not know the rules, are less likely to be able to vote on election day.

In September 2019, data from the electoral commission shows that three-quarters of 16-17 year olds and one-third of 18-19 year olds were not registered. This figure declines as people get older. For the over-65s, its just 6%.

To make the electoral register more complete, the cross-party group of Lords suggest the government should get local authority’s registration officers to add 16-year olds to the electoral register when they get their national insurance number. They would still be unable to vote until they are 18.

Alternatively, the Lords suggest the government should inform 16-year olds of how the voting process works when they get their national insurance number – but not add them to the register.

These are suggestions but, if the amendment becomes law, it will be up to the government to choose what measures to take.

If the Lords’ amdendment is passed in the Lords, it will be added to the bill. The bill will then go back to the Commons where it will be voted on again.

Ahead of the last election’s voter registration deadline, Left Foot Forward analysis shows most government ministers did not encourage young people – who usually vote for Labour – to register to vote.

On the other hand, Labour activists expended a lot of time and energy trying to inform young people about voter registration by handing out flyers outside of colleges and universities.

This campaigning, and the support of celebrities, led to a record-breaking surge in voter registration. Despite this, young people were still less likely to succesfully vote than older people.

The ‘parliamentary constituencies bill’ is designed to even out the number of people in different constituencies. It is likely to significantly decrease the number of MPs from Scoland and (particularly) from Wales.

Joe Lo is a co-editor of Left Foot Forward

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