COMMONS

MPs call for major changes to electoral arrangements

05 February 2015

Political and Constitutional Reform Committee says Government must respond to public support for changes to electoral arrangements in a report, published on Thursday 5 February.

Political and Constitutional Reform Committee publishes report on reforming voting arrangements to reengage British people with politics and elections. This follows a substantial consultation on what proposed changes to current electoral arrangements the public would support.

Graham Allen MP, Chair of the Committee, said:

"It is appropriate that today, on National Voter Registration Day and only 90 days before the general election, Parliament’s Political and Constitutional Reform Committee is publishing a report on reengaging the public with elections.

Turnout for the last general election was only 65%—almost 16 million registered voters chose not to participate—and millions of people were not even registered to vote. This is not an acceptable state of affairs for a modern democracy.

If we do not take urgent action to make elections more accessible to the public and convince them that it is worth voting we will be facing a crisis of democratic engagement.

The fact that almost 85% of people turned out for the recent referendum on Scottish independence shows that people will turn out if they care about an issue and believe they can make a difference. This lesson needs to be learnt and applied to all other elections.

Our report is based on the views of the more than 16,000 people who responded to our consultation on voter engagement. This shows the level of interest in making changes to improve voter engagement, and requires a serious response from the Government and political parties.

We are recommending that the Government consider some radical changes, like online voting, holding elections at the weekend, and letting voters register to vote on Election Day, because we believe a serious problem needs serious answers. We have also stressed the importance of serious action being taken by political parties, individual politicians and the Government if the public is to be reengaged not just with elections, but politics more broadly.

It is now for the political parties and next Parliament to take forward this work and re-engage the electorate, so that participation at future elections is much higher.

We hope our report shows that Parliament is waking up to this issue by calling for radical change.

Members of Parliament will be discussing the issue of voter engagement in Westminster Hall this afternoon, and we hope many others will be holding similar debates across the UK. We applaud everyone who is, as part of National Voter Registration Day, making efforts to encourage people to register to vote and participate at elections. Only by working together can we reenergise UK elections."

The Committee’s key recommendations are:

  • That the Government bring forward plans to target those groups—including young people, British citizens living overseas and people with disabilities—who are currently least likely to be registered to vote.
  • That the Government consider making registration automatic—so people don’t have to individually apply to register to vote—and put in place plans to prompt people to register to vote when they access other public services.
  • That more be done to register young people at schools, colleges and universities across the country.
  • That changes to electoral arrangements—including online voting, registering closer to or on Election Day and holding elections at the weekend—be piloted in the next Parliament with a view to making permanent changes to electoral arrangements ahead of the 2020 general election.

16 and 17 year olds

The Committee has also recommended that after the 2015 general election the Government and Parliament take forward research and national debates on electoral reform and the possibility of extending the franchise to 16 and 17 year olds, with a view to taking forward legislative changes if appropriate.

Westminster Hall Debate

The Committee is holding a debate on voter engagement in Westminster Hall at 1.30pm on Thursday 5 February.

Further information

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