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The new generation are confident voters, but call for further modernisation of the registration process

Published: 11 Sep 2017

Efforts to reach 16 and 17 year olds with information about registration and voting are paying off, according to a new report published by the Electoral Commission; however, these new voters have high expectations about the further automation of the registration process.

This year saw the first set of council elections at which 16 and 17 year olds could vote. The Commission’s report on the administration of the elections found that 16 and 17 year olds reported finding it easier to access information about how to cast their vote than those aged 18-34, with 84% of 16-17 year olds saying it was easy compared to only 69% of 18-34 year olds. Similarly, only 7% of 16-17 year olds said they found it difficult to complete their ballot paper, compared to 16% of 18-34 year olds.

However, the report also found that this age group backed further reforms to the electoral registration process, including automatic registration,  with nearly three-quarters (74%) of 16 and 17 year olds believing that you should be automatically added to the electoral register when you receive your National Insurance Number.

Sue Bruce, Electoral Commissioner for Scotland said:

“Teachers, councils, youth organisations and the electoral community worked hard to ensure that our newly enfranchised 16 and 17 year olds had all the information they needed to be confident participants in our elections.  The evidence shows that this work has paid off.

“More than any other group, young people expect from their public services the same efficiency and streamlined processes that they experience elsewhere. Electoral processes need to keep pace and the Commission continues to call for further modernisation of voter registration, to make sure it’s more integrated with other public services and better reflects the citizen’s expectation.”

The Commission’s report found that over-all the council elections were well run, but that further improvements could be made to support voter participation and confidence in the process. These include:

  • Modernising and streamlining electoral law, in line with the UK’s Law Commissions’ 2016 recommendations
  • Ensuring greater transparency around campaign spending by requiring candidates to declare donations and loans and by publishing candidate spending returns online
  • Reviewing voter information provided by parties, councils and the Electoral Commission to improve voter understanding of the Single Transferable Vote.

The report’s key findings include:

  • 1,889,657 votes were cast at the elections, representing a turnout of 46.9% - the highest turnout for a stand-alone ordinary council election since 1977.
  • The level of rejected ballots was 1.95%, which was up from 1.74% in 2012.
  • 82% of people said they were confident that the polls were well run, up from 75% at the 2012 council elections.
  • 88% of people said they were very or fairly satisfied with the process of registering to vote and 78% expressed satisfaction with the procedure for voting.

Today’s report is available on the Commission’s website here: https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0006/233673/Scottish-Council-elections-2017.pdf

Ends

For more information contact Sarah Mackie on 0131 225 0211 or smackie@electoralcommission.org.uk

Out of office hours 07789 920414

Notes to editors

  1. The Electoral Commission is the independent body which oversees elections and regulates political finance in the UK. We work to promote public confidence in the democratic process and ensure its integrity by:
  • enabling the delivery of free and fair elections and referendums, focusing on the needs of electors and addressing the changing environment to ensure every vote remains secure and accessible
  • regulating political finance – taking proactive steps to increase transparency, ensure compliance and pursue breaches
  • using our expertise to make and advocate for changes to our democracy, aiming to improve fairness, transparency and efficiency

The Commission was set up in 2000 and reports to the Scottish Parliament for its work on Scottish council elections.

Journalist