EU referendum: Returning officers told to prepare for record 80 per cent turnout

The Electoral Commission expects turnout to far outstrip the general election

Jon Stone
Wednesday 08 June 2016 14:13 BST
Returning officers have been told to be prepared
Returning officers have been told to be prepared (Getty)

Election organisers across the UK are preparing for record-breaking turnout at the EU referendum, it has emerged.

The Electoral Commission says it has written to returning officers to plan for around 80 per cent of people coming out to vote – significantly higher than in general elections.

Voters could emulate turnout in the 2014 Scottish independence referendum where 85.6 per cent of people voted – the highest ever since the introduction of universal suffrage.

By contrast, turnout at the 2015 general election was 66 per cent across the UK, slightly up from 2010.

“We’re planning for high turnout, whether that will transpire I don’t know – but we’ve asked everybody to plan for around an 80% turnout," Jenny Watson, the Commission’s chief executive, told Sky News.

"The planning assumptions we've been working on all the way through with the counting officers have been high turnout – and high being closer to the [Scottish] independence referendum than, for example, the referendum on parliamentary voting system in 2011.”

The instruction comes amid a last minute surge in people registering to vote days before the deadline to vote.

The Government website for registering to vote was plagued with technical problems caused by “unprecedented demand” between Tuesday and Wednesday – leading to calls for the deadline to be extended.

The Electoral Commission itself said the Government should look at changing the law to push back the deadline by a day.

David Cameron said at Prime Minister’s Questions that the Government was looking at legislative solutions to the issue.

He urged voters who wanted to vote to sign up today – a sign that the cut-off point could be retroactively pushed back in future.

The overwhelming majority of people registering to vote ahead of the EU referendum have been young people, who polls suggest are more likely to back the Remain campaign.

The plebiscite will take place on 23 June

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