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Nearly 7 in 10 people don’t know the deadline to register to vote in the General Election – national campaign launched by the Electoral Commission to spread the word

Published: 16 Mar 2015

The Electoral Commission has today launched a major public awareness campaign to remind people they must register to vote by the April 20 deadline if they want to take part in the General Election.

Recent research conducted by YouGov for the Electoral Commission found that:

  • 21% of people who rent privately think they’re automatically registered to vote if they pay council tax
  • 40% of those surveyed think it is not possible to register to vote online in England, Scotland and Wales.
  • 69% do not know when the deadline to register to vote is, with 13% thinking it is already too late to register.  When given a choice of five options only 32% correctly identified the deadline as 20 April.

Many people also aren’t registered to vote because they haven’t got round to it yet, with over 60% of people who moved in the last year not registered.

Television adverts and increased digital activity – including adverts on catch-up TV and Facebook – will go live from Monday. The watchdog’s campaign seeks to address under-registration in an engaging way by using the concept of ‘loss aversion’ from behavioural economics. 

In certain situations people are more likely to be motivated by realising they may lose something, than the prospect of making a gain. Filmed with a mix of actors and members of the public captured on hidden cameras, the TV ad shows people’s reaction to being stopped doing everyday activities they thought they were able to.  The message at the end as someone is turned away from being able to vote is simple: You can’t vote, unless you’re registered by 20 April.

The campaign directs people to www.gov.uk/register-to-vote where they can complete an application form in a matter of minutes. 2015 marks the first General Election where people can register to vote online; previously voters had to print out, fill in and post a form to the Electoral Registration Officer at their local authority. In the research conducted by YouGov, over half (53%) of 18-24 year olds didn’t know that they could register online.

For the first time the elections watchdog will also be using mobile advertising to target young people on EE, O2 and Vodafone networks. They are set to receive SMS/MMS messages encouraging them to register to vote in the run-up to May.

Jenny Watson, Chair of the Electoral Commission, said: "A General Election can prompt a great deal of excitement and debate, with voters keen to have their say. But there are a lot of misconceptions, with many people not realising they aren’t registered or how easy it is to do.

“We don’t want anyone to be told ‘no’ on polling day, so if you aren’t registered take action now by registering at www.gov.uk/register-to-vote. And why not share the fact that you’ve done so with your family and friends to help them get the message.”

Previous research by the Commission found that 44% of those not registered to vote incorrectly believed that they were. In separate research conducted in 2014 the elections watchdog also found that:

  • Age: 76% of 18-19 year olds and 70% of 20-24 year olds are registered to vote compared to 95% of those aged 65+.
  • Housing tenure: 63% of private renters are registered to vote compared with 94% of those who own their own homes.
  • Ethnicity: White or Asian people are more likely to be registered to vote (86% and 84% respectively) than those identifying as Black (76%).


Click here to see the Electoral Commission’s TV advert.

In February the Commission launched its campaign aimed at young people, who will be eligible to vote at their first General Election. Read the news release here.

Electoral Commission spokespeople are available for interview.

Contact Rosemary Davenport in the Electoral Commission press office on 020 7271 0704 or press@electoralcommission.org.uk
Out of office hours 07789 920 414

Notes to editors

  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. Statistics on age, ethnicity and housing tenure are taken from the Commission’s research: The quality of the 2014 electoral registers in Great Britain