Young Citizens joins call for automatic voter registration for 16 and 17 year olds

Young Citizens has joined a campaign led by the Electoral Reform Society and 25 other youth organisations and campaigners to persuade the government to automatically enroll 16 and 17 year olds onto the electoral register. With registration rates in this age group as low as 25% in 2018 – a drop from 45% from 2015, urgent action is needed.

In an open letter to Ministers, the group calls for the Government to accept an amendment passed in the House of Lords to the Parliamentary Constituencies Bill, enabling automatic registration when this age group receive their National Insurance number, streamlining the process and potentially freeing up resources for EROs.

Tom Franklin, Chief Executive of Young Citizens, commented,

“Voting is habit forming. When people start to vote as soon as they are eligible, they are then much more likely to continue voting throughout their lives, which is an essential element in the strength of our democratic society. The Government needs to remove every barrier to voting that it can, and this simple step would ensure that young people are able to vote as soon as they are eligible. I urge the Government to support this simple measure.”

The full text of the letter is below:

“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 Agency  
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”