Voter engagement in the UK - Political and Constitutional Reform Contents

7  Proposals to improve voter turnout

142. We have heard several proposals for how voter turnout could be increased, and we discuss the most persuasive of these below. Changes we have considered include:

·  Automatic registration;

·  Modernising electoral administration (for example: weekend voting, voting anywhere, online voting);

·  Improving the provision of information about elections;

·  Non-partisan "get out the vote" campaigns;

·  Citizenship education, and

·  Electoral reform.

Automatic registration

143. We have previously recommended that "it would be desirable to identify a system whereby those eligible to vote could be automatically registered",[320] and we have heard some further arguments that this would be desirable. Dr Maria Sobolewska told us: "Automatic enrolment would be the ideal-world scenario in my mind, but that would be a very costly and very big step in terms of reform."[321] Sheffield for Democracy's written evidence also called for automatic registration, stating that this could be linked to "something like the National Insurance number".[322] The Government's response to our suggestion that automatic registration would be desirable was:

    The Committee's proposal for automatic registration would represent a significant shift away from the present system of elector-led application and voluntary registration, to a system of automaticity with an opt out. Such a system would present a number of issues for the electors. As well as the cultural change this would entail, it would also present potential challenges in terms of ensuring the accuracy of the electoral register and its security against fraud, which would require very careful further consideration.[323]

144. We reaffirm our view that voters should ideally be registered to vote automatically. The fact that the latest parliamentary electoral registers were only 85.9% complete and 86% accurate makes a strong case for a system of automatic registration, which could include the use of the National Insurance number. We recommend that in its response to this Report the Government clearly set out its view on moving to a system of automatic registration. Such a system could operate alongside Individual Electoral Registration.

Modernising electoral administration

145. There are several ways in which current electoral practices could be modernised to make voting more accessible to the electorate, and we have been told that "the more opportunities provided for individuals to vote, the more likely they are to do so".[324] Phil Thompson, Research and Evaluation Manager at the Electoral Commission, told us of some views the Electoral Commission had received from the public in a recent opinion survey. The results included:

·  70% of people said they would support weekend voting;

·  65% would support advance voting in some other way so voting would be stretched over a number of days, and

·  About 63% of people said they would support the introduction of online voting.[325]

Between 2000 and 2007 several electoral modernisation pilot schemes were run across the UK, but none have been run since.[326]


146. Traditionally, elections in the UK are held on Thursdays; the last general election not to be held on a Thursday was on Tuesday 27 October 1931. The Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 provided for future parliamentary general elections to be held on first Thursday in May in the fifth calendar year following the previous general election. Elsewhere in Europe it is common for elections to be held on the weekend—for the recent elections to the European Parliament, the UK was one of only three countries, the others being the Netherlands and Ireland, out of the 28 involved to hold elections on a weekday. Other countries, including the United States of America, Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands and Ireland hold elections on various weekdays. Several witnesses and written submissions stated that moving elections to the weekend could have a positive impact on voter engagement.[327] Professor Patrick Dunleavy, Co-director of Democratic Audit, told us:

    I think if you look across Europe the general pattern is that elections that are held on the weekend have a 10% higher turnout than elections that are held on working days. We think that is a pretty easy win. It has costs in terms of higher overtime pay or something like that, but if you were interested in increasing turnout, that would be a useful thing.[328]

Dr Toby James told us that "There is clear evidence that if you were to change the day of the election it would bring about an increase in turnout." He cited research which indicated that holding elections on the weekend could increase turnout by between 6.8 and 10%, stating: "You have some variation in terms of what the research is saying there, but universally the evidence is that one positive effect would be, it seems, that more people would vote on a Sunday."[329]

147. However, not everyone was in favour of holding elections at the weekend. John Turner, Chief Executive of the AEA, told us that he thought moving elections to a non-weekday "might encourage a few more people but I think you are talking about a few more people." He also said that the previous Government had looked at the proposal and rejected it on the basis of cost and premises available.[330] When the previous Government consulted on weekend voting, they found that a majority (53%) of respondents, and particularly those with a role in running elections (80%), favoured keeping elections on a week day.[331]

148. A related suggestion was that polling stations could be open for several days, possibly including at least one weekend day.[332] The evidence we received stated that this would increase the opportunities people had to participate at an election. One piece of written evidence, from David Green, took a slightly different view, suggesting that elections continue to be held on a weekday, but that the day be made a public holiday—to enable greater participation. It would be easier to plan for having a general election day on a public holiday in light of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011, which provided for future elections to be held on the first Thursday in May every five years. Mr Green stated that the intention of making election day a bank holiday would be to "make a national day of voting" so that it was "special".[333]

149. The idea of a "Democracy Day" fits closely with our view that greater esteem and excitement should return to the electoral process. We recommend that the Government explore further proposals for weekend voting, extending voting and designating election days as public holidays. We acknowledge the resource implications of some of these proposals, particularly for rural communities.


150. Another suggestion we heard was that of allowing voters to cast their vote at any polling station in their local authority,[334] or anywhere in the country.[335] Jessica Garland, Research Officer at the Electoral Reform Society, told us this was "worth thinking about",[336] and Dr Toby James also said it would "make a difference", but noted it would require making changes such as having electronic poll books.[337]


151. We have received a significant amount of evidence in favour of online voting, whereby voters could cast their vote over the internet. Several submissions from members of the public and civic groups supported the idea, or stated that it would have a positive impact on participation.[338] Others raised concerns about the possibility of fraud, and difficulties around guaranteeing secrecy.[339] Phil Thompson, Research and Evaluation Manager at the Electoral Commission, told us that in a recent survey "half of the people who didn't vote told us they would have been more likely to vote if they had been able to vote online",[340] and the written evidence from Lodestone also indicated that online voting could be particularly effective at engaging those people who do not currently vote, as their survey of non-voters found that "67% of those who didn't vote in 2010 said that they would be more likely to vote if they could vote online".[341]

152. The National Union of Students stated that online voting "presents a good opportunity to ensure that democratic processes better reflect the practices that young people and students already utilise",[342] and Toni Pearce, President of the NUS, also told us: "One of the reasons that online voting is so attractive for me is not just about encouraging young people to vote but the issue of access, particularly for disabled people, for being able to vote."[343] When we took evidence from the University of Sheffield Students' Union, we heard about how they had moved to a system of online voting for Union elections in 2009. Online and paper voting were run concurrently in 2009 and 2010, but as few votes had been cast by paper in 2010 elections had been exclusively online since 2011. The impact on turnout had been significant, with an increase in the number of people voting of over 50% in the first year elections were run online, and turnout increasing further with each subsequent year. When surveyed, 85% of students at the University of Sheffield said they would be more likely to vote in governmental elections if they were able to do so online.[344]

153. Dr Toby James told us that online voting was something he could give "lukewarm support" to, as "evidence has not shown it bringing about a major increase in turnout yet". That said, he also told us that "times are changing and it is something we should certainly keep under review".[345] He did give some suggestions for situations which could encourage greater take up of online voting, when he referred to previous pilots in 2003, stating: "what we did see from those pilots was that where you had internet voting in place in consecutive elections, more people began to use it. If you had internet voting open until the close of the poll, at 10 pm, more and more people would use it."[346] We also received written evidence from Rushmoor Borough Council, which was involved in the previous pilots of online voting, outlining the results of the pilots and suggesting some ways in which future pilots could be improved. Their experience was that online voting did not meet their targets for increasing turnout, but was generally received positively by people who used the system.[347]

154. Concerns we heard about online voting centred on risks of electoral fraud and problems in guaranteeing secrecy of the ballot. Professor RA Watt stated that "new (i.e. digital technologies) are not suitable for introduction into the remote voting (unsupervised, out of polling station) environment" as there would be issues around fraud and the secrecy of the ballot if people were allowed to vote digitally outside of a polling station.[348] A written submission from Policy Exchange stated that online voting could trivialise elections, and that it was also "arguably […] inconsistent with the core principle of the secret ballot."[349]

155. In terms of how online voting could be taken forward, Democratic Audit told us:

    We think we should definitely have a sustained, serious experiment of using online voting on a larger scale than has been tried before.[350]

Fran O'Leary told us:

    we believe that there should be closer interaction between Government, industry and academics to ensure that any internet voting systems that are developed are safe, secure and economical.[351]

However, it does not appear that the current Government are planning to implement changes such as online voting. When we questioned Sam Gyimah MP about various proposals that might improve voter participation, he told us:

    Looking at the options that are there, you have widening the franchise, electronic voting, weekend voting, all of these have been suggested a number of times over the years. In my view there are more downsides than upsides.


    There are some good arguments for them but I think at the moment the downsides outweigh the upsides, but then you would not have talked about online registration 10 years ago so you never know, their time may come.[352]

156. Online voting is a proposal for increasing levels of participation that has received strongest support from our witnesses, although support has not been unanimous. Enabling electors to cast their vote online if they choose to do so would make voting significantly more accessible. In light of the move to IER, and the already high take up of postal voting, there is scope for giving online voting further consideration, although this would need to be balanced with concerns about electoral fraud and secrecy of the ballot. We believe that online voting could lead to a substantial increase in the level of participation at UK elections, and we recommend that the Government should come forward with an assessment of the challenges and likely impact on turnout, and run pilots in the next Parliament with a view to all electors having the choice of voting online at the 2020 general election.


157. In Great Britain, anyone can apply to vote by post—separate arrangements apply in Northern Ireland. A number of submissions noted the high levels of participation from people using postal votes,[353] although others raised concerns about security and secrecy.[354] In the 2010 general election 5.5 million valid postal votes were received, representing just over 18% of the total number of votes cast.[355] The percentage of the electorate issued with a postal vote increased from 4% in 2001 to 15% in 2010. Turnout rates were higher at the general election for people voting by postal ballot, with 83% of people who were sent a postal ballot voting, compared with 63% of those who had to vote at a polling station. 96% of electors who have postal votes in the Tatton Constituency voted at the last general election, the highest proportion in the country.[356] Of the 15% of electors who voted in the Police and Crime Commissioners election almost half of these were postal voters.[357] Of the 14% of electors who voted in the recent South Yorkshire by election only 3% voted in the polling station and 11% by postal voting.[358]

158. As part of the transition to Individual Electoral Registration, voters with existing postal votes who are matched as part of the confirmation process or register individually will keep the postal vote, but otherwise will lose their postal vote entitlement at the conclusion of the 2014 canvass. Any voter that loses their entitlement to a postal vote will still be able to vote in a polling station.[359] 93% of postal voters were confirmed on the electoral register following data matching, and so will retain their postal vote entitlement without having to take further action.[360]

159. The extension of the postal vote has been a success and those who choose to vote by post should be facilitated to do so. The Committee recognises the importance of postal voting in increasing democratic participation and calls upon political parties, Electoral Registration Officers, the Electoral Commission and the Government to make postal voting more accessible. We note with concern that under the transitional arrangements for IER, almost half a million postal voters who were not confirmed automatically will lose their entitlement to a postal vote if they do not register under the new system.

All-postal voting

160. Voting at elections exclusively by postal ballot was piloted in England from 2000 to 2004. The Local Government Association found from the 2000 pilots that postal voting was the only new electoral arrangement to have significant potential for increasing local election turnout,[361] and the Electoral Commission stated that all-postal voting increased turnout significantly in some places, but that performance differed from area to area.[362] The Electoral Commission told us:

    Following the largest all-postal voting pilot schemes across four English electoral regions at the 2004 local government and European parliament elections, we noted that turnout had been just over five percentage points higher in those regions with all-postal voting than in regions where postal voting was available on demand in addition to polling stations. We also found, however, strong public support for retaining the ability for people to choose to vote in person at a polling station, and therefore recommended that all-postal voting should not be pursued for use at future UK statutory elections.[363]

161. We recommend that further trials of all-postal voting in elections should be held.


162. Given its importance to our democracy we feel that there is a need to revisit electoral administration on the basis of convenience for electors and no other interest. Several changes, which have in the past been of academic interest, including online voting, holding elections on weekends or over several days, having a "Democracy Day" public holiday for voting, letting voters cast their vote anywhere in their constituency and having all-postal votes, are now measures which need to be considered in the context of improving voter participation. There is compelling evidence that some of these changes could have a substantial, positive impact on the levels of voter participation. Particularly if taken together, these changes could demonstrate that "the powers that be" are serious about voter engagement. We recommend that the Government, working with the Electoral Commission and EROs, bring forward a package of reforms to electoral arrangements to increase accessibility and turnout, and establish a series of pilots early in the next Parliament to test the various proposals that we have considered, with a view to making permanent changes to electoral arrangements by 2020.

Public awareness and the provision of information

163. We received a great deal of evidence highlighting problems with the provision of information and promotion of public awareness to electors, and calling for improvements to be made. One of the main points Democratic Audit highlighted in their evidence to us was that the "information provided to UK voters is insufficient".[364] Unlock Democracy Birmingham highlighted similar concerns, stating in their written evidence: "many members of the public do not feel they have enough information about the elections to cast their vote effectively".[365] Fran O'Leary, Director of Strategy and Innovation at Lodestone, told us she had been struck by the number of people she had spoken to who "don't really know how to get on the register", and that is "not because they are not enthused about the world, it is that they do not know about the system".[366] Jenny Watson, Chair of the Electoral Commission, highlighted lack of awareness as having played a significant role in relation to voter turnout for the Police and Crime Commissioner elections. She told us that 37% of the people that did not vote in those elections gave a reason for not voting that related to a lack of awareness. She also told us that at the local elections in May 2014, only 63% of people felt they had enough information to make an informed choice. She felt there was "enough evidence there to be clear that lack of awareness was a significant factor at the elections".[367]

164. Several witnesses and written submissions argued that it should be possible to provide more and better information to voters, particularly in light of new technology.[368] Democratic Audit, in particular, have called for better information about elections and candidates, and for past results to be made more accessible.[369] Professor Patrick Dunleavy argued that there should be a phone or tablet app that "provides as much information as it can to make participation attractive."[370] The Wales Governance Centre made a similar suggestion, stating: "The development and use of mobile apps by both parties and the institutions of government should be a priority in engaging young people in politics and voting."[371] Some other possibilities for improving the provision of information to voters include:

·  "Voting advice applications"—online election quizzes which help users find the party that is closest to their political views;[372]

·  "An online forum to enable members of the public to ask the candidates questions during the lead up to a general election";[373]

·  "a weekly email from the local Council" to registered voters, and[374]

·  Better advertising of elections on the day.[375]

Lodestone asked a sample of those who did not vote in the 2010 general election what would be most likely to persuade them to vote in a UK general election, and over 10% of respondents highlighted factors relating to information, including:

·  "16% of people saying receiving a leaflet;

·  12% saying a personal visit from a candidate;

·  12% saying more information as to how and where you can vote;

·  11% saying more information on how to get a postal vote, and

·  6% of people saying receiving an email from a candidate."[376]

165. There is demand for an improvement in the level and quality of information available to voters, and scope to improve delivery, particularly through new technology such as apps and social media. New technology could also be used to promote public awareness of elections. Some ideas—such as voting advice applications designed to tell voters which parties most closely represent their views—would need to be taken forward by independent organisations, but others could be pursued by the Government or the Electoral Commission.

166. We recommend that the Government discuss with the Electoral Commission and include in its response to this Report details of arrangements that are currently in place to provide information to the public about elections and registering to vote, and bring forward proposals for the effective use of new technology to better inform the public and increase awareness of elections. This could include having a central source of information about election results, and better advertising of elections on the day. The Government and Electoral Commission should also examine the changes which can be made to provide more and better information to voters, and should actively support the work of outside organisations working to similar goals.

167. Both the Government and Parliament, and not least select committees, can be even more innovative about the way they engage with the public, enhancing not superseding our representative democracy. We note that the Speaker's Commission on Digital Democracy is looking at proposals in these areas.

'Get out the vote' campaigns

168. In addition to campaigns encouraging people to register, campaigns encouraging people to vote—both non-partisan campaigns and those run by political parties—can have a positive impact on voter participation. Professor Peter John, of University College London, outlined research that showed that contacting people in person, by telephone, or by mailshot, encouraging them to vote could have positive effects on turnout,[377] and that there were also positive effects for turnout in subsequent elections, even when there was no further intervention. A submission from four academics argued that "party campaigning could be an important part of the solution to low turnout in UK elections", but noted that parties will always focus their campaigning in areas where increased votes are likely to provide an electoral advantage, rather than campaigning equally across the country.[378] Professor Susan Banducci told us that "information and visibility enhances people's sense of engagement in the campaign, and that motivates them to vote."[379]

169. One suggestion to come out of our informal Outreach event, on which we subsequently received written evidence, was that there be "some kind of pin-on token, which voters could choose to wear when they have voted", so as to make voting "feel more social".[380] On a similar point, but in the realm of social media, Dr Rebecca Rumbul from the Wales Governance Centre, told us that "positive, small things, such as putting an "I voted" button on Facebook and having reminders, and seeing that your friends voted, made a significant difference in voter turnout among that younger age group."[381]

Citizenship education

170. The importance of providing effective citizenship education to young people was a theme highlighted as essential to improving voter engagement in much of the evidence we received.[382] Suggestions for how citizenship education related to voter engagement fell into two main categories:

·  That citizenship education should cover the importance of voting, and[383]

·  That citizenship education should cover the practicalities of registering to vote and participating in elections,[384] and also how to engage with politics more broadly.[385]

Professor Matt Flinders argued that it was only through citizenship education that the broader question of political disengagement could be addressed.[386] Toni Pearce, President of the NUS, also highlighted the need to impart understanding of how to vote and the importance of voting to young people, stating:

    Citizenship education and just fundamental understanding of how voting works and what it means to vote and what it will be, what the physical act of voting is, doesn't get talked about and that is a real problem.[387]

Michael Sani, Managing Director of Bite the Ballot, told us that it was important to start early with the process of teaching young people about voting:

    You might not see the results of our work for a decade, but what an exciting time when these 14-year-olds hit 24. At 16 they felt empowered to register to vote, and at 18 they were waiting to vote and play an active role, not just once at every election but in between, going through the communication channels to the right people to voice their views and take a stake in their society. It could be wonderful for our country.[388]

171. Ruth Fox, Director of the Hansard Society, thought that the focus on voting as being "about people participating and what they get out of it" was quite worrying, and "what might be more effective is focusing on the citizen duty element of it instead".[389] The New Citizenship Project, a think tank that focuses on participatory society, also argued that more should be done to actively promote the "Citizen identity" as a way of increasing public engagement with elections.[390] One suggestion of how the focus on citizenship could be applied was that a "citizenship ceremony" be held where newly eligible voters were presented with a certificate to commemorate their becoming able to participate at elections.[391]

172. Effective citizenship education is an important part of the process of becoming an engaged voter, and should continue to be a part of the national curriculum. We recommend that the Department for Education ensure that schools' citizenship education courses specifically include discussion of the political and governmental structures of the UK and the electoral systems that operate in the UK, and also the practicalities of registering to vote and actually participating at an election. We expect that Department to respond to this report to indicate progress in this area.

Electoral reform

173. Several witnesses and written submissions proposed more substantial reforms to electoral arrangements, or the franchise. Changes to the UK electoral system that were proposed included:

·  Compulsory voting (including just for first-time voters);

·  Reducing the voting age, and

·  Changing the First Past the Post electoral system.[392]


174. International experience shows that making voting compulsory results in consistently high election turnout. Countries such as Australia and Luxembourg, which have compulsory voting, have had turnout figures of over 90% for recent general elections, significantly higher than turnout for any UK election in decades. A number of our written submissions stated that there was a case for considering compulsory voting,[393] noting that it would have a substantial positive impact on turnout. One argument we heard in favour of compulsory voting was that it was "the only way to ensure that there is no inequality in turnout".[394] Others opposed compulsory voting, stating that it would treat the symptom—low turnout—rather than the underlying problem—why people don't vote.[395] A written submission from Dr Nick Anstead and Professor Sonia Livingstone also noted that "compulsory voting would be politically very difficult to introduce in a country where it has no precedent."[396]

175. A specific proposal that was made to us by the IPPR was that voting should be made compulsory for first-time voters. Their proposal was that "young people who are eligible at their first election to vote will be required to go out and vote" so that "they develop this habit and they will do so at subsequent elections ".[397] The written evidence submitted by the IPPR stated that this would "go a significant way toward breaking the habit of non-voting that often gets passed from generation to generation, and could have a substantial and lasting impact on turnout."[398] A similar proposal was suggested by Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council—stating that voting should be compulsory for 16-18 year olds.[399] Glenn Gottfried told us he believed that making voting compulsory for first time voters "will help alleviate the problem of turnout over time." However, several witnesses opposed treating first-time voters differently from other people.[400]

176. A number of written submissions recommended that there be an option for "none of the above" on the ballot paper if voting were made compulsory—so that people were not compelled to vote for one of the candidates standing for election—and others supported the option of voting formally for "none of the above" on the ballot paper, whether voting was compulsory or not.[401] A written submission from Nota UK stated that being able to vote for "none of the above" would allow people to actively withhold consent from the parties standing for election.[402] Being able to vote for none of the above was the most popular choice by 38 Degrees members in their survey of "What would make you more likely to vote in the 2015 General Election?", picked by over 18,000 of the 84,000 respondents.[403]

177. International experience demonstrates conclusively that making voting a mandatory civic duty ensures that the vast majority of eligible voters participate in elections. Making voting compulsory is not the sole solution to voter engagement or to political engagement more broadly. Some members of the Committee believe there is now a strong case for including it in a package of measures to meet the threat of disengagement, though provision for those who wish not to take part should be respected by including an abstention provision on the ballot. However, other members believe that voting should not, as a matter of principle, be made compulsory, and that people should be free not to participate at elections if they so choose. We recommend that the Government report to the House setting out how a system of compulsory voting could operate in the UK, including an assessment of international experience, and an assessment of whether voting should only be compulsory for certain types of election. This would mark the start of a public debate. If the 2015 Parliament were to agree, compulsory voting could operate at the following general election. If Parliament did not agree the current system would continue.

178. We recommend that, in the event that voting in certain elections is made compulsory, an option to vote "none of the above" or to "abstain" should be one of the options set out. These options could also be included even if voting were not compulsory.


179. The written evidence from the Electoral Reform Society stated: "The results of UK general elections have become increasingly disproportional in the translation of votes to seats, and produce majorities far in excess of votes received", and goes on to say that "Without changing the voting system […] the culture of politics at Westminster is unlikely to change."[404] A significant number of submissions called for the implementation of some form of the Single Transferable Vote (STV) system,[405] where voters rank candidates so that results can more closely reflect the preferences of voters. STV Action, a group dedicated to campaigning for use of the Single Transferable Vote election system (STV) for all public elections in the UK, stated that STV would allow voters to "vote positively for named candidates" and make votes "more positive".[406] That said, we noted earlier the benefits that some people have argued the First Past the Post voting system provides. Of those calling for STV, many stated that it should be used initially for local government elections.

180. Other submissions did not favour particular reforms, but recommended there be greater public debate about possible changes to the electoral system.[407] For example, Dr Stephen Barber stated that an "independent, intelligent, evidenced, public debate about the merits and demerits of alternative systems set in the terms of engagement can only be a positive discussion."[408] Unlock Democracy stated that there is "significant evidence that more proportional voting systems are linked with higher turnout (3-7%)".[409] A number of other submissions also called for an electoral system that was more proportional than First Past the Post, or noted that such systems were shown to increase turnout.[410] Other electoral systems were also suggested.[411]

181. Westminster has a settled view on First Past the Post. The more that centralisation gives way to devolution, the more that electors at the level of the nations, regions or localities will wish to exercise choice over their electoral systems. We accept that democratic institutions outside Whitehall, be they Parliaments, Assemblies or institutions in localities, will increasingly be the place where the debate about their own electoral systems should take place and be decided and that this will have a positive impact on engagement and participation.


182. Only people aged 18 and over are eligible to vote in UK elections, although people aged 16 and 17 are able to register to vote if they will turn 18 during the period the register is in force. 16 and 17 year olds were allowed to vote in the UK for the first time in the referendum on Scottish independence, held on 18 September 2014. Turnout for the referendum as a whole was 84.6%, though data on how many 16 and 17 year olds voted at the referendum is not available.

183. Several of our witnesses argued in favour of extending the vote to 16 and 17 year olds. Professor Sarah Birch and Professor Paul Whitely stated that research on extending the franchise to 16 and 17 year olds suggested that it would be likely to increase youth turnout in the short term, and could also increase overall turnout in the medium to long term.[412] We also received a written submission from the Hon Stephen Charles Rodan SHK, Speaker of the House of Keys, Isle of Man, where the franchise was extended to 16 and 17 year olds in 2011. The experience in the Isle of Man was that 35% of eligible 16 and 17 year olds registered to vote, and turnout of the registered voters at the next election was 60.2%—very close to the turnout figure for the electorate as a whole. The rate of registration for this age group had since risen to 60.1%. The Speaker of the House of Keys stated that he remains "firmly of the view that 16-year-olds should be entitled to vote as a matter of principle in any case", and also notes that many Keys candidates now make reference to young peoples' issues in their manifestos, and he says it is arguable whether this would have been the case if the voting age had remained 18.[413]

184. A written submission from Harry Barnes, a former MP, also argued in favour of extending the franchise to 16 and 17 year olds on the basis that this would make it much easier to achieve almost 100% registration rates of those people who would become eligible to vote during the period an electoral register was in force, by registering them at school.[414] The Electoral Reform Society took a similar view, stating that "Early registration should be implemented alongside lowering the voting age to 16", as this would "allow a seamless transition from learning about voting, elections and democracy to putting such knowledge into practice".[415] Extending the franchise to 16 and 17 year olds was also supported by Democratic Audit,[416] the NUS,[417] Dr Elin Weston and LLB Advanced Constitutional Law students at King's College London,[418] and the Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform.[419]

185. Professor Jonathan Tonge and Dr Andrew Mycock made the point that because voting is habit forming, if the franchise were extended to 16 and 17 year olds, it would be important that they actually exercise their right to vote. To that end, they stated that consideration needed to be given to the broader question of political literacy of young people when considering extending the franchise.[420]

186. We have received a significant amount of evidence that extending the franchise to 16 and 17 year olds could have a positive impact not just on voter engagement for young people, but also on voter engagement overall in the medium to long term. We as a Committee take no view on whether the franchise should be extended, but recommend that Parliament leads a national discussion on this matter and that a motion on the issue is brought forward in 2015 to allow the House of Commons a free vote on its view, with a view to the introduction of legislation if appropriate.

320   Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill, HC 437, Third Report of Session 2010-11, October 2010 Back

321   Q346 [Dr Maria Sobolewska] Back

322   Written evidence from Sheffield for Democracy [VUK 93] Back

323   Government response to the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee's Report on the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill, Cm 7997, March 2011 Back

324   Written evidence from Professor Ailsa Henderson [VUK 38] Back

325   Q578 [Phil Thompson] Back

326   Written evidence from the Electoral Commission [VUK 40] Back

327   Written evidence from the Birmingham 'Success' Group [VUK 37], Professor Ailsa Henderson [VUK 38], Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council [VUK 49], Charles Harvey [VUK 138], Dr Nick Anstead and Professor Sonia Livingstone OBE [VUK 149] Back

328   Q70 [Professor Dunleavy] Back

329   Q241 [Dr Toby James] Back

330   Q300 [John Turner] Back

331   Election Day: Weekend Voting, Ministry of Justice, March 2010 Back

332   Written evidence from Dr Elin Weston and LLB Advanced Constitutional Law students, King's College London [VUK 33], Professor Ailsa Henderson [VUK 38], I Miller [VUK 119], Dr Nick Anstead and Professor Sonia Livingstone OBE [VUK 149], Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform [VUK 152] Back

333   Written evidence from David Green [VUK 91] Back

334   Written evidence from Dr Elin Weston and LLB Advanced Constitutional Law students, King's College London [VUK 33], Dr Nick Anstead and Professor Sonia Livingstone OBE [VUK 149] Back

335   Written evidence from Sheffield for Democracy [VUK 93] Back

336   Q135 [Jessica Garland] Back

337   Q239 [Dr Toby James] Back

338   Written evidence from the Bradford Children in Care Council [VUK 02], Andrew Jones [VUK 10], Democratic Audit [VUK 20], Andy Tye [VUK 84], Lynne Armstrong [VUK 106], I Miller [VUK 119], Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform [VUK 152] Back

339   Written evidence from RA Watt [VUK 24], Policy Exchange [VUK 83] Back

340   Q578 [Phil Thompson] Back

341   Written evidence from Lodestone [VUK 101] Back

342   Written evidence from the NUS [VUK 34] Back

343   Q195 [Toni Pearce] Back

344   Written evidence from the University of Sheffield Students' Union [VUK 86] Back

345   Q231 [Dr Toby James] Back

346   Q239 [Dr Toby James] Back

347   Written evidence from Rushmoor Borough Council [VUK 123] Back

348   Written evidence from Professor RA Watt [VUK 24] Back

349   Written evidence from Policy Exchange [VUK 83] Back

350   Q70 [Professor Dunleavy] Back

351   Q491 [Fran O'Leary] Back

352   Qq 837, 839 [Sam Gyimah MP] Back

353   Written evidence from Professor Andrew Russell [VUK 25], Dr Nick Anstead and Professor Sonia Livingstone [VUK 149] Back

354   Written evidence from Hugh Eveleigh [VUK 01], Unlock Democracy [VUK 18], Professor RA Watt [VUK 24], Professor Stephen D Fisher [VUK 35], Policy Exchange [VUK 83], David Green [VUK 91], Dr Nick Anstead and Professor Sonia Livingstone [VUK 149] Back

355   Report on the administration of the 2010 general election, Electoral Commission, July 2010 Back

356   UK General Election 2010 data, Electoral Commission, May 2010 Back

357   Police and Crime Commissioner elections in England and Wales, Electoral Commission, March 2013 Back

358   Labour win South Yorkshire police commissioner poll, BBC News, 31 October 2014 Back

359   Individual Electoral Registration guidance: Part 5 - Absent voting, Electoral Commission, September 2013 Back

360   Analysis of the confirmation live run in England and Wales, Electoral Commission, October 2014 Back

361   Elections - the 21st Century Model: an evaluation of May 2000 localelectoral pilots, Local Government Association Back

362   Modernising Elections A Strategic Evaluation of the 2002 Pilot Schemes, Electoral Commission, August 2002 Back

363   Written evidence from the Electoral Commission [VUK 40] Back

364   Written evidence from Democratic Audit [VUK 20] Back

365   Written evidence from Unlock Democracy Birmingham [VUK 143] Back

366   Q492 [Fran O'Leary] Back

367   Q565 [Jenny Watson] Back

368   Written evidence from Andy Tye [VUK 84] Back

369   Q57 [Professor Dunleavy] Back

370   Q67 [Professor Dunleavy] Back

371   Written evidence from the Wales Governance Centre [VUK 15] Back

372   Voting advice applications promote political engagement and an informed electorate, LSE, 20 May 2014, written evidence from Unlock Democracy [VUK 18] Back

373   Written evidence from Thomas Quinton [VUK 163] Back

374   Written evidence from [VUK 29] Back

375   Written evidence from J R Attar [VUK 89] Back

376   Written evidence from Lodestone [VUK 101] Back

377   Written evidence from Professor Peter John [VUK 16] Back

378   Written evidence submitted by Charles Pattie, Ron Johnston, David Cutts, and Laura Palfreyman [VUK 19] Back

379   Q644 [Professor Susan Banducci] Back

380   Written evidence from Michael Andrews [VUK 96] Back

381   Q633 [Dr Rebecca Rumbul] Back

382   Written evidence from Dr Kaat Smets [VUK 21], Myplace Project [VUK 23], Mark Ryan [VUK 31], Dr Elin Weston and LLB Advanced Constitutional Law students, King's College London [VUK 33], Keith Best [VUK 117], Gary Stewart [VUK 118], Bite the Ballot [VUK 153] Back

383   Written evidence from the Bradford Children in Care Council [VUK 02] Back

384   Written evidence from Dr Elin Weston and LLB Advanced Constitutional Law students, King's College London [VUK 33] Back

385   Written evidence from Democracy Matters [VUK 112] Back

386   Written evidence from Professor Matt Flinders [VUK 06] Back

387   Q184 [Toni Pearce] Back

388   Q222 [Michael Sani] Back

389   Q83 [Ruth Fox] Back

390   Written evidence from New Citizenship Project [VUK 155] Back

391   Written evidence from David Green [VUK 91] Back

392   Written evidence from Mark Ryan [VUK 31], Dr Elin Weston and LLB Advanced Constitutional Law students, King's College London [VUK 33], David H Smith [VUK 59], Morgan Dalton [VUK 75] Back

393   Written evidence from Professor Stephen D Fisher [VUK 35], Birmingham 'Success' Group [VUK 37], Michael Yates [VUK 53], Malcolm Morrison [VUK 68], Liam Hardy [VUK 109], I Miller [VUK 119] Back

394   Q35 [Glenn Gottfried] Back

395   Written evidence from Nota UK [VUK 61], STV Action [VUK 114] Back

396   Written evidence from Dr Nick Anstead and Professor Sonia Livingstone [VUK 149] Back

397   Q35 [Glenn Gottfried] Back

398   Written evidence from the IPPR [VUK 14] Back

399   Written evidence from Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council [VUK 49] Back

400   Q62 [Professor Dunleavy], Q104 [Hansard Society], Q113 [Jessica Garland], Q204 [Toni Pearce] Back

401   Q377 [Nigel Slack], written evidence from 38 Degrees [VUK 50], Michael Yates [VUK 53], Nota UK [VUK 61], Malcolm Morrison [VUK 68], I Miller [VUK 119] Back

402   Written evidence from Nota UK [VUK 61] Back

403   Written evidence from 38 Degrees [VUK 50] Back

404   Written evidence from Electoral Reform Society [VUK 17] Back

405   Written evidence from Ian Sheppard [VUK 51], Thomas G F Gray [VUK 67], Malcolm Morrison [VUK 68], Richard Lung [VUK 77], Peter Ivorson [VUK 79], David Green [VUK 91], Dr David Hill [VUK 99], Anthony Tuffin [VUK 105], Canon Michael Hodge [VUK 108], Colin Buchanan [VUK 110], Arthur C James [VUK 111], Keith Underhill [VUK 113], STV Action [VUK 114], Make Votes Count in West Sussex [VUK 115], Keith Best [VUK 117], John E Strafford [VUK 134], Michael Meadowcroft [VUK 135], Brian Wichmann [VUK 145], Dr AEL Davis [VUK 147] Back

406   Written evidence from STV Action [VUK 114], Make Votes Count in West Sussex [VUK 115] Back

407   Written evidence from 4 Freedoms Party (UK EPP)/British Committee of the European People's Party [VUK 146] Back

408   Written evidence from Dr Stephen Barber [VUK 12] Back

409   Written evidence from Unlock Democracy [VUK 18] Back

410   Written evidence from Dr Elin Weston and LLB Advanced Constitutional Law students, King's College London [VUK 33], Professor Stephen D Fisher [VUK 35], Sheffield for Democracy [VUK 93 and VUK 124], Lynne Armstrong [VUK 106], John E Strafford [VUK 134], Unlock Democracy Birmingham [VUK 143], David Bernard [VUK 144] Back

411   Written evidence from Tim Knight [VUK 69 and VUK 131] Back

412   Written evidence from Professors Sarah Birch and Paul Whitely [VUK 08] Back

413   Written evidence from Hon Stephen Charles Rodan SHK, Speaker of the House of Keys, Isle of Man [VIUK 90] Back

414   Written evidence from Harry Barnes [VUK 13] Back

415   Written evidence from the Electoral Reform Society [VUK 17] Back

416   Written evidence from Democratic Audit [VUK 20] Back

417   Written evidence from the NUS [VUK 34] Back

418   Dr Elin Weston and LLB Advanced Constitutional Law students, King's College London [VUK 33] Back

419   Written evidence from the Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform [VUK 152] Back

420   Written evidence from Professor Jonathan Tonge and Dr Andrew Mycock [VUK 05] Back

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© Parliamentary copyright 2014
Prepared 14 November 2014