Electoral Commission calls on government to harness resources for voter registration

14 Sep 2016 11:16 AM

The Electoral Commission yesterday reported on its most ambitious voter registration campaign ever, resulting in the most voters being added to electoral registers in any calendar year and a record high electorate for the EU Referendum.

Stakeholder engagement was high, with the UK government using its extensive channels and resources to support the Commission’s registration campaign – something the Commission is calling on government to repeat ahead of every electoral event.

With major polls taking place across every part of the UK in May and June 2016, the Commission ran several highly targeted campaigns in a concentrated period. Advertising across TV, radio, video on demand services, billboards, digital and social media was supported by a broad range of partnership work to drive registration.

During the course of the Commission’s two campaigns in 2016, there were over 3.3 million online applications to register to vote, and over 1.8 million voters added to registers, exceeding the equivalent totals for 2015:

EU Referendum

  • Online applications – 2,100,916
  • Voters added to registers – 1,077,313

May 2016

  • Online applications – 1,214,844
  • Voters added to registers – 807,658

May 2015 (UK General Election)

  • Online applications – 2,296,530
  • Voters added to registers - 1,569,396

The Commission has also recommended that the UK Government should develop an online system that would allow voters to check whether they are already registered before they submit a new application. This would reduce the current burden on both electoral administrators, who have to process large numbers of duplicate applications and on voters, who currently have no means of checking online whether their details are up to date ahead of each poll.

Yesterday’s report finds that forming media partnerships to produce bespoke TV ads  (with programs such as Channel 4’s Hollyoaks) and other promotional content linked to popular shows is an effective way to reach under-registered groups - particularly people who may not be receptive to a message directly from a public body.

Prompts to users of social media platforms also proved to be highly effective means of driving applications to register:

  • The Commission worked with Facebook ahead of the May polls to include a reminder to register to vote in the newsfeeds of all UK users on one day, which resulted in the highest number of online applications on that day than any other during the campaign.
  • Ahead of the EU Referendum, the creation of bespoke emoji hashtags with Twitter ensured that the Commission’s campaign creative was engaged with in a least 40,000 tweets by 25,000 users which generated 185 million potential impressions.

Emma Hartley, Head of Campaigns at the Electoral Commission said:

“Undoubtedly the UK government’s mobilisation of its resources and channels to push the voter registration message before the referendum played an important role in reminding people to register as part of their daily interactions with services. We would like to see this level of partnership working sustained and developed ahead of all polls in the future.

“It is also really important to recognise how hard Electoral Registration Officers and their staff have worked to process applications and get people on registers. We want to thank them for their efforts during this very busy year.”

Aside from social media, government departments used a wide range of other channels at their disposal to promote voter registration, including job centres, driving test centres, train stations and airports.

The full campaign evaluation report is available on the Commission’s website at:

http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0014/213800/May-2016-and-EU-referendum-public-awareness-evaluation-report.pdf

A further report on the overall administration and regulation of the EU Referendum was also published and is available on the Commission’s website at:

https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0008/215279/2016-EU-referendum-report.pdf

For further information contact the Electoral Commission press office on 020 7271 0704 orpress@electoralcommission.org.uk

Out of office hours 07789 920 414

Notes to editor

  1. The Electoral Commission is an independent body set up by the UK Parliament. Our aim is integrity and public confidence in the UK’s democratic process. We regulate party and election finance and set standards for well-run elections and are responsible for the conduct and regulation of referendums held under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act (2000).
  2. The Electoral Commission sent almost 32 million voter information booklets across the UK – 28 million for the EU Referendum, 2.5 million for the Scottish Parliament election, and 1.3 million for the Welsh Assembly and Police and Crime Commissioner elections.
  3. The Commission’s budget for the May 2016 campaign was £3.5 million, which included the costs of printing and distributing a voter information booklet to every household in Scotland and Wales. The budget for the EU Referendum campaign was £6.5 million, which covered the costs of distributing a voter information booklet to all households in the UK.
  4. The EU Referendum Act (2015) gave the Electoral Commission a statutory responsibility to promote awareness of the referendum.