Last night, in the final hours before the EU voter registration deadline, the official registration website crashed. Many people who were wanting to register because they were inspired by the TV debates, or were planning to register late, were locked out of the referendum. Many of these were young people wanting to vote for the first time.
The root causes of the problem are clear. In fact, last week I co-blogged Bite the Ballot and Lord Rennard on how to stop a last minute registration rush. Britain’s electoral registers were missing millions of people. In 2014, there were 7.5 such million missing voters. Since then, the electoral register has contracted further. In the heat of an impassioned debate about the future of Britain, the demand from unregistered voters overwhelmed the government’s technical infrastructure.
Such a situation is entirely avoidable. Earlier in the year, our report from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Democratic Participation on the ‘Missing Millions’ presented tried and tested solutions to keep the register up-to-date all year round. For example, in many democracies around the world, automatic registration is used to avoid a last minute administrative challenge. Why set ourselves up for a fall?