A £4.2 million drive to add hundreds of thousands of “missing” young voters to the electoral register has been launched by the Government.
It follows today’s disclosure in The Independent that at least one in four young adults – equivalent to some 800,000 across the country – could have failed to register to vote.
Councils and national organisations are being given funding to find new ways of reaching out to disenfranchised groups and persuading them to join the register.
The charity UK Youth is to develop an online programme to help youth workers to stimulate interest among teenagers in politics and the democratic system, and extra cash is being set aside for local authorities to promote schools’ lessons plans designed to encourage students to register.
David King, UK Youth’s programme development manager, said: “It is particularly important to engage young people long-term in democratic processes. Young people have a tremendously positive impact on our society and they need the tools to be able to formalise their input.”
Cash is also being targeted at other groups significantly under-represented on the register, including people who live in social housing or homeless, as well as single parents and people with learning disabilities.
Greg Clark, a Cabinet Office minister, said: “I want to see more people from across society engaging in the democratic process and everyone should get their say at elections. Ensuring more people are registered to vote is vital in this process.”
Details of the funding were announced ahead of a major shake-up in the system of registering to vote. Later this year people will be required to sign up individually, rather than as households, and online registration will be available for the first time.
Critics claim the moves could lead to millions of potential voters dropping off the register.