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Voter Registration (Young People)

Volume 566: debated on Tuesday 9 July 2013

The Government, politicians, political parties, electoral administrators and others in society have a role to play in encouraging people, including young people, to register to vote. As I have mentioned, the Government are making available up to £4.2 million this year to maximise the rate of voter registration ahead of the transition to individual electoral registration in 2014. That will be targeted at groups of people who are under-represented on the electoral register, including young people.

Does the Minister not accept that under individual registration there will be the serious problem that a lot of young people who lead slightly dysfunctional lives because they are away at college or working away, or for all kinds of other reasons, will not be at an address when a registration form arrives, will not be able to register, and consequently will not be able to vote? Will this system not end up disfranchising a large number of young people who ought to be enfranchised in our system?

As the youngest Minister in Her Majesty’s Government, I could not agree more on the importance of enfranchising young people. However, I disagree entirely that IER will lead to what the hon. Gentleman describes. There are multiple points at which electoral registration officers will make contact; it is not a case of just one officer turning up. I stand strongly by the principle that it is right in a modern society for people to have an individual right, and indeed a responsibility, to register.

Given that voter registration is straightforward and free of charge, why do the Government not require all public sector organisations, whenever they come into contact with anybody—young, middle-aged or old—to ask whether they are on their local register, and if they are not, to tell them how to register?

My hon. Friend makes a helpful point. Many opportunities to achieve the ends that he sets out are afforded by having more public services online. We are introducing digital registration in 2014, which will be very helpful in achieving that shared aim.