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Youngest voters back auto enrolment for elections



Electoral Commission survey shows majority for aligning allocation of National Insurance number with place on electoral rolls

Teenage voters overwhelmingly support automatic enrolment on electoral rolls, showing the need to keep up with changing expectations, a survey by the Electoral Commission has found.

Three quarters of 16- and 17-year-olds told the survey they believe the names of people receiving their National Insurance number should be added automatically to voting lists.

The 74% of 16- and 17-year-olds who back automatic enrolment is much higher than the 59% support recorded from all respondents – and the just 38% of over-65s who favour it.

This youngest group of voters – who voted in council elections in Scotland for the first time this year – are also least satisfied with the registration process.

Only 64% of the youngest voters are satisfied with the procedure for voting and 76% with registering, lower than 78% and 88% respectively among the overall population.

Need for change

David Tiberti, the organisation’s research and evaluation manager, said the survey “highlights the need for the system to keep up with the changing expectations that society has of public services”.

“Concerning electoral registration for example, technology and measures introduced over the last few years have brought positive results and it is important to build on these successes,” he said.

Tiberti added that dissatisfaction with the voting process “is probably due to turnout and experience, as first-time voters may need some time to become familiar with the process”.

The Commission pointed to the findings as part of growing evidence for automatic registration, which already happens in Australia, Canada and some US states.

It called on the Government to consider it in July, when it put out a report calling for a step forward in sharing data to boost the numbers of registered voters.

DPA potential

The Commission believes that work done by some town halls to integrate electoral registration applications with student enrolment processes has already paved the way for the change. Also, the recent Digital Economy Act includes provisions to make it easier for public bodies to share data to improve the delivery of services.

Automatic enrolment would not only boost voter turnout, but would “relieve the burden on local authorities”, the watchdog says.

The Commission’s survey suggested that turnout among 16 and 17-year-olds in the Scottish council elections was similar to that among 18 to 34-year-olds (at around 51%), but lower than among older groups.

Image from League of Women Voters of California, CC BY 2.0 through flickr

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