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Today the government can bring in the ‘missing millions’ excluded from electoral roll

Today MPs have a chance to bring in millions of young people to the electoral register and we’re joining with leading youth groups and campaigners to urge them to take it. MPs will be debating an amendment to the Parliamentary Constituencies Bill, passed by the House of Lords in October. The amendment warns that parliamentary constituencies will fail to reflect their communities unless action is taken to close a staggering registration gap.

25 youth organisations, academics and civil society groups have written to the Cabinet Office, urging ministers to back the Lords amendment that would see ministers draw up an action plan to tackle this ‘crisis of representation’. One option would be to automatically register people when they receive their National Insurance number.

Without simple but vital reforms, parliamentary constituencies will exclude swathes of young people when they’re drawn up. There are many things that can be done to address political inequality in the UK, but this would be a good start. We urge the government to get behind it and help bring in the ‘missing millions’ at last.

Letter in full

Dear Minister, 

In October a cross-party group of peers passed an important amendment to the Parliamentary Constituencies Bill 2019-21 (Report Stage) in the House of Lords. 

The amendment put forward by Lords Shutt, Wills, Janvrin and Lexden requires the government to bring forward proposals to improve the completeness of the electoral register with regards to young people of 16- and 17  (‘attainers’) for the purpose of boundary reviews.  

As you know, the completeness of our electoral register is vital in creating fair and equal boundaries and ensuring all citizens are democratically represented. But, as it stands, this bill risks excluding large numbers of people when the new boundaries are drawn. 

Young people of 16- and 17 have the lowest rates of electoral registration of any age group, the Electoral Commission estimating just 25% are on the register and, most worryingly, these rates continue to fall.  

While not prescribing solutions, the amendment suggests enabling the automatic registration of 16- and 17-year olds when they receive their National Insurance number, streamlining the process and potentially freeing up resources for EROs. Alternatively, when the Department for Work and Pensions contacts individuals giving them their NI number, the department could include details of how the individual can apply to join the register. 

We hope you will accept this amendment to the bill, as a former Chair of the APPG on Democratic Participation which championed the cause of improving voter registration. Presenting plans to improve the completeness of the register could help people carry the habit of voting with them throughout their lives. 

We believe this is a simple, low-cost and effective means of improving the completeness of the register over time, which ensures the new parliamentary boundaries fully reflect the communities within them.  

Without improving rates of registration, the electoral boundaries will undermine the principle of equal democratic representation, but we believe these reforms could make a real difference. 

Thank you for your work in this area and we hope you will consider adopting the amendment when the bill returns to the Commons.   

Yours sincerely, 

  1. Darren Hughes, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society 

  2. Amanda Chetwynd-Cowieson, Chair, British Youth Council 

  3. James Cathcart, Director, Young Voices Heard

  4. Mete Coban MBE, Chief Executive, My Life My Say

  5. Tom Franklin, CEO, Young Citizens

  6. Leigh Middleton, CEO, National Youth Organisation 

  7. Youth Impact

  8. Shout Out UK 

  9. Unlock Democracy

  10. Operation Black Vote

  11. HOPE not hate

  12. Beatfreeks 

  13. Partnership for Young London

  14. Professor Toby S. James, University of East Anglia

  15. Dr. Stuart Wilks-Heeg, University of Liverpool

  16. Prof Roger Scully, Chair, Political Studies Association

  17. Professor Matt Henn – Nottingham Trent University. 

  18. Professor James Sloam, Royal Holloway (University of London)

  19. Professor Jon Tonge, University of Liverpool

  20. Jennifer Nadel, Compassion in Politics

  21. Tom de Grunwald, Co-Founder of Forward Democracy

  22. Peter Dunphy, Director, Unite to Reform

  23. Klina Jordan, Co-Chief Executive and Co-Founder, Make Votes Matter

  24. Michael Abiodun Olatokun, London South Bank University

  25. Indra Adnan, The Alternative UK

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