This week sees Bite The Ballot's third annual National Voter Registration Day – a chance for schools, colleges, universities, businesses and other organisations to encourage everyone, especially young people, to register to vote and to get involved in the democratic process. The worrying trend of disengagement among young people is worsening all the time, with only 43% of young people voting in the 2015 general election.  There are two main reasons for this, both of which can be solved with a little effort and political will.

The first is the disaffection experienced by many young people with politics.  The causes of this run deep, but it is clear that few young people feel like any politicians, regardless of their party, truly speak to young people and engage with the issues that matter to them. Politics is becoming increasingly divisive in this country, but that is no reason why politicians of all stripes should not address the issues that young people are affected by and those that they care about.

The second is the impact of the move to 'Individual Voter Registration'.  This was a policy designed by Labour and introduced by the Conservatives and, as announced yesterday, it has resulted in nearly 1 million people falling off the electoral register, mostly young people.  While this is terrible news, it is only the latest in a long line of good-intentioned mistakes when it comes to the registration of young people on the electoral roll.  This misguided approach to the registration of young people has to change, because the current system is failing an entire section of society.

This should be of importance to everyone as without being on the electoral register, you cannot be involved in our democracy and all that it entails.  Most obviously, you cannot vote, denying yourself the ability to influence and affect the path our country takes and rejecting one of the most fundamental rights available.  On top of this, without being registered to vote you cannot become a part of the justice system in this country – meaning that you cannot be selected for a jury or be appointed as a magistrate.  At a more personal level, not being registered to vote also affects your ability to take out loans and credit cards, as the electoral roll is used for credit checks.  To get involved in our democracy, the biggest thing you can do is take part.  In order to change your world, whether your concerns are local, national or global, you have to start by registering to vote.

As a global law firm, we are passionate about the rule of law and civic engagement.  Active participation in our democratic process is crucial to guaranteeing a free and fair society under the rule of law which is in the interest of business and society. We have been supporting Bite the Ballot's national campaign using volunteer lawyers to go out into local schools to deliver "The Basics": (http://bitetheballot.co.uk/portfolio/the-basics/ ) educational tools and videos in local colleges and to encourage young voter registration.   We are also working in partnership to encourage Government to back the campaign to back a schools initiative similar to that introduced in Northern Ireland which requires the Electoral Registration Officer to actively engage with schools, colleges and Universities.  It has worked well in Northern Ireland and should be rolled out to the rest of the UK.  

Richard Trinick, 
Associate

Yasmin Waljee
International Pro Bono Director
Hogan Lovells
Category

Comments

Anonymous 06 Feb 16

I think the letter is factually wrong to say that individual voter registration scheme was designed by Labour and introduced by the Conservative.

Individual voter registration was announced as a plan by the Electoral Commission in 2010 and became government policy in 2012.

I find it really surprising that Hogan Lovells is openly criticising government policy on voter registration? Is this some kind of joke?

Anonymous 05 Feb 16

Yes yes yes, all well and good, but where does Deloitte stand on the UN's response to Julian Assange's current situation? What do Coutts & Co think about Gary Neville's performance at Valencia?

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