Majority of voters don’t know crucial May election info, poll finds

Charities are urging people to raise awareness of the upcoming vote

People are being urged to go out and vote amid worries that the majority of the population don’t know the election date.

A new poll suggests six in 10 people do not know about the 6 May date for the upcoming local, Mayoral, Scottish, Welsh and Police and Crime commissioner elections.

In addition to this, the poll (by Survation and commissioned by Citizen UK) shows 43 percent of voters are worried about visiting polling stations during the pandemic.

Charities and campaign groups are now rallying together to urge people not to forget to register to vote in 19 April, and they are proposing a range of measures going forwards to increase voter participation.

The measures include automatic voter registration and more political education in schools, to improve representation at future elections.

Of the voters in the West Midlands and Tees Valley, whose areas are likely to be the most contested of all the mayoral races and were only decided by a margin of one percent in 2017, 67 per cent in the Midlands and 66 per cent the in North did not know the date of elections.  

In addition to the awareness problem, millions are still missing from the electoral registers – the Electoral Commission estimated in September 2019 that some 17 percent of eligible voters in Great Britain were not correctly registered. 

Data from the Electoral Commission also showed that under 21’s, migrants who are eligible to vote, renters, and people from ethnic minorities are more likely not correctly registered. As many as 9 million people are missing from the electoral roll.[1] 

In response to the evidence of widespread lack of awareness the Government faced calls to make voting easier in future elections through measures like Automatic Voter Registration and greater investment in political education. 

Matthew Bolton, Citizens UK executive director, said: “Some of the enormous effort asking voters to register could be directed elsewhere if there was better political education about why voting was important, coupled with automatic voter registration.

Whilst these solutions will not fully resolve the democratic inconsistencies that exist in the UK, it will help strengthen voter turnout and encourage more people to take an active role in electoral politics.” 

Nick Ballard, ACORN head organiser, said: “Due to the pandemic, ACORN, like so many other organisations, has faced considerable barriers when it has come to our door-to-door voter registration drives over the past year.

“With local elections fast approaching, we believe that it is vital that registering to vote is made as simple as possible to ensure decent access to the democratic process for people in the UK.” 

Matteo Bergamini, Shout Out UK Founder and CEO, stated“The pandemic has highlighted the urgent need for political literacy education to be taught in schools. Most young people are not taught how our system works or how we can be involved; this includes all of the different ways to register and then vote.

“During a pandemic fear is high, so it’s no wonder that many feel concerned about going to the polls. Changing election law to make it easier to gain a proxy vote, for instance, isn’t enough when many haven’t ever been taught what a proxy vote is or how to apply for one.

“Everyone needs to know how our political system works through political literacy, regardless of gender, ethnicity and socio-economic status. Only then can we take a hard look at how to make our democracy better and more capable in dealing with threats like this again.” 

Lucy Skoulding is a freelance reporter at Left Foot Forward. Follow her on Twitter. 

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