Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Twice as many 18 year olds are on Facebook than the electoral register

Last month I wrote about the huge number of people in the UK who are entitled to be on the electoral register but aren't. Now comes the news that there are twice as many 18 year old Facebook users than on the electoral register.

I suppose this isn't a surprising statistic - I have yet to meet an 18 year old who isn't on Facebook (although I'm sure there are some, somewhere). But the report says that just 55% of 17 and 18 year olds are on the register.

This report suggests two things. First that the Electoral Commission, local councils and others should be using Facebook and other social media to reach out to young people and get them to register. The best way to reach potential voters of all ages is to go where they are (both literally and figuratively), not expect them to conform to your way of working.

Second, that moves to cut the amount of effort and money spent on compiling the register are misguided in the extreme. It's high time that Nick Clegg came out and confirmed that his initial plans to abolish the annual canvass have been dropped. Our elections must be for everyone, not just the self-selecting few.

There is work that Cornwall Council can do directly on this issue and, using my position as Chair of the Electoral Review Panel, I've asked officers to tell me what plans they have to engage better with young people and other under-registered groups.

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