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DASA Survey (Service Voting)

Volume 447: debated on Monday 5 June 2006

I have today placed in the Library of the House a copy of the report of the survey on service voting conducted by the Defence Analytical Services Agency.

The Ministry of Defence has been working with the Electoral Commission to improve the electoral process for the armed forces. This survey was undertaken to provide hard evidence of the numbers of service personnel who register and cast their vote. It was also designed to provide information to help us judge how best to continue to encourage service personnel to do so in future.

I welcome the survey, which gives us hard facts to target future work. The survey indicates that the services are broadly consistent with national trends on voting in the general election, given that they demographically fall within the lower age ranges where fewer people voted. In addition it shows that 60 per cent. of service personnel are currently registered, with a significant majority of those (67 per cent.) choosing to register as ordinary rather than service voters.

Although these figures indicate that anecdotal evidence of a very significant drop in numbers registered was pessimistic, they do show that there is still work to be done. The survey suggests, for example, that we have been less effective in getting the message across to those serving overseas and other ranks. We are working closely with the Electoral Commission to analyse the survey, to understand the reasons behind the results, and to use them to make further improvements to the quality of information available to all service personnel.

We remain committed to improving arrangements for the service community to exercise their right to vote, and I am also keen to improve further the quality and timeliness of information on registration and voting options and procedures and to simplify them where possible. We will continue to work hard, with the Electoral Commission, to achieve this.