City among best for voter registration

Published on 25 February 2016

LEICESTER has been named in the top 10 areas of the UK for the number of people registered to vote in council elections. 

The number of voters registered in the city to vote in local government elections rose by 3.4 percent, from 223,534 in 2014, to 231,127 in 2015, following an extensive campaign by the city council to encourage people to register. 

The figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show Leicester as having the sixth biggest increase nationally in the number of voters registered for local authority elections.

Changes to the way voters were registered were brought in by the Government in 2014, meaning that individuals in a household were responsible for registering themselves, rather than the responsibility lying with the head of the household.

This presented a series of new and significant challenges to councils.

As a result across the UK, an estimated 770,000 people have fallen off electoral registers, leading to about 1.4million fewer people registered to vote in the last two years.

However, Leicester City Council put extra resources into running a series of successful citywide campaigns aimed at ensuring people in under-represented groups were registered to have a voice in local democracy.

The campaigns included a social media campaign to engage 18-25-year-old voters, and a range of work to engage black and ethnic minority voters, students, social housing tenants and new arrivals to the area, from the UK or abroad. 

The city council worked closely with De Montfort University to involve students, used its periodic civic magazine Link, the city council’s website, posters, press releases and direct mailing to residents.

School networks, training providers and youth services were also involved in helping spread the message to younger people, while job centres, housing offices, GP surgeries, hospitals and neighbourhood centres were used to help publicise the campaign to other hard to reach groups.

Voters were reminded that as well as the importance of having a say in local policing, council, general and European elections, being on the electoral role was vital to get credit such as a mortgage, credit card or even a mobile phone. 

People are also legally required to register to vote, or face a £1,000 fine.

Leicester Deputy City Mayor Cllr Rory Palmer said: “This is a fantastic achievement and shows that the extensive work we’ve been carrying out to encourage voters to register has been successful.

“The fact that Leicester is among the top 10 best cities for the level of voter registration shows that this hard work to help people understand the changes to the system has been worthwhile. In many ways, due to the pace and scale of changes, this achievement has been made against the odds.

“Being registered to vote is essential for anyone who wants to have a say in the way their city and country is run, and I’m very pleased that so many people have registered to get ensure their voices heard. “

Leicester City Council’s director of communications, delivery and political governance, Miranda Cannon, is responsible for the council’s electoral registration service.

She added: “We knew we had some residents missing from the electoral register following the Government changes, and the challenge for us was to make sure we got the message about the importance of registration to as many people as possible across the city.

“We got the message out there through a wide range of different approaches, from door knocking, leaflets and posters through to social media and reaching out into communities at a grass roots level through places like schools, housing offices and neighbourhood centres.

“I’m delighted at these figures showing that our work has been a success, and it’s encouraging to know so many people across the city are now correctly registered and in a position to play their role in the life of the city.”