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Voting Behaviour

Volume 474: debated on Wednesday 2 April 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what recent steps the Government has taken to address negative voting trends. (198122)

The Government are committed to looking at ways in which the electoral process can be made more convenient and responsive to the overall needs of the electorate. As part of this commitment, we have and will continue to look at measures which can be introduced to encourage eligible persons to vote at elections.

Under the Electoral Administration Act 2006 (EA Act), we introduced a number of measures aimed at increasing voter turnout, including a requirement for local electoral officers to take appropriate steps to increase participation in the electoral process in their areas, the costs of which may be reimbursed by the Secretary of State.

The EA Act also introduced a new duty requiring electoral registration officers to take all necessary steps to register electors, including sending the canvass form more than once, making house to house enquiries and inspecting records they are permitted to inspect. And this new duty is making a difference to the levels of registration, as confirmed by the Office for National Statistics when they recently published electoral registration rates for the UK. As of the 1 December 2007:

The number of parliamentary electors increased by 307,669 to 45,082,854; and

The number of local government electors increased by 463,340 to 45,920,503

Following our commitment in the “Governance of Britain” Green Paper, we will also be consulting shortly on the merits of moving voting to the weekend for general, European and local elections. This will include consideration as to whether this would improve voter participation at elections.

It is important that we capture young people’s interest at an early age and build their understanding of democratic and political processes so that they take an active part in society, as they become adults and citizens. My Department has undertaken a number of projects to encourage participation and engagement among young people. This includes setting up a Youth Citizenship Commission which will consider how to increase young people’s participation in politics.