Individual Electoral Registration and Electoral Administration - Political and Constitutional Reform Committee Contents

Written evidence submitted by the British Youth Council

1.  The British Youth Council (BYC), as the national youth council of the UK, empowers young people aged 25 and under, wherever they are from, to have a say and be heard. We aim to help them to participate in decisions that affect them, have a voice and campaign on issues they believe in, inspire them to have a positive impact, and gain recognition for their positive contribution to communities, society and the world.[35]

2.  BYC supports the youth voice in decision making and the democratic engagement of young people through its programmes and services including support for the UK Youth Parliament—600 elected Members of Youth Parliament, the Young Mayor Network of directly-elected young mayors, and the Local Youth Council Network of over 450 youth councils in the UK.

3.  BYC has a sixty year history of encouraging young people to vote. For example, BYC ran a General Election 2010 campaign to encourage young people to engage with prospective parliamentary candidates on their priority policy issues such as public transport and ending child poverty, and in 2006 was funded by the Electoral Commission to deliver a programme "Inform & Influence" between 2006 and 2008 to raise political awareness amongst over 1000 young people at risk of being not in employment, education and training; 80% of those who attended training stated that their involvement made them "more likely to vote".

4.  BYC would like the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee to consider the specific challenges that young people may face using the individual electoral registration process, and welcome working with the Committee to consult young people and their representatives further on this issue. We believe that young people will have questions and concerns about the new requirement to provide a date of birth and National Insurance number when registering which need to be answered. We believe that young people would benefit from a national co-ordinated public awareness campaign, produced with young people for young people, to explain how to register to vote under the new system, and the new focus on sharing personal data and individual responsibility. Young people need to be empowered to register to vote themselves; in order to have control over this process they need to have sufficient accessible and youth-friendly information. We think that providing clear information about electoral registration process through the Citizenship curriculum, partnered with voter registration drives at schools, universities, and other places and services that young people use, will be key to increasing the proportion of young people who register to vote.

5.  Shortly after the General Election 2010, BYC ran an online consultation with 1149 young people across the UK aged 10 to 25 years old on issues around political and electoral reform; 49% of respondents being aged 18 to 25. As part of this consultation BYC asked young people to submit their ideas on how to increase the number of young people registering to vote and using their vote. We received 892 ideas from young people (78% of the total sample) to the question "What do you think needs to be done to encourage young people to register to vote and exercise their vote?" One of the key themes of these responses was the need to remove barriers to the registration of young voters and simplify the process. Young people highlighted the issue of having to print off and post the registration form. They also wanted information within the curriculum of how to vote, and the process of undertaking this while you have a home address and term time address at university. BYC would be happy to share more of these suggestions with the Committee; a small selection of the quotes from the young people involved is below:

—  (a)  "[Voter registration] made simpler no forms just turn up and vote with id". Female, 21, who didn't register to vote in time for the General Election 2010.

—  (b)  "More publicity of deadline by which you have to register to vote by etc. More polling stations in town centres and increased flexibility of which polling station you can use". Female, 18, who voted in the General Election 2010.

—  (c)  "Make it easier to register to vote. Currently you can fill out the form online but still have to print it off and post it". Female, 22, who voted in the General Election 2010.

—  (d)  "Simpler explanations [of the voting process]? More hands on activities like in town, instead of just reading leaflets?" Female, 14.

—  (e)  "As many 18 year olds who need to register to vote are in education, at a college or a sixth form, it could be possible to visit these places to personally encourage them to register and to offer some advice on how to, or even do it there and then!" Male, 18, who was too young to vote in the General Election 2010.

—  (f)  "Make the system easier, add it to the curriculum and encourage schools to set up an opportunity to register". Female, 17.

6.  BYC has also previously outlined young people's interest in being able to vote online or by email and would be interested to discuss further the opportunities for the use of new technologies in the voting process that could be coupled with the implementation of individual electoral registration. When BYC asked young people in 2008 "Do you think that more young people would vote in elections if they were able to vote online, by email or by post?" 83% of participants agreed that it would.[36]

September 2011

35   For further information on the work of the British Youth Council, and our membership, please visit Back

36   British Youth Council, September 2008, Consultation response to the Ministry of Justice, The Governance of Britain: Election Day-weekend voting consultation. Available from: Back

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Prepared 4 November 2011