Grassroots campaign aims to help the ‘unheard third’ to vote

A polling station for local council elections. Photograph: Danny Lawson/PA.

A polling station for local council elections. Photograph: Danny Lawson/PA. - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

Amid news that one in four black and Asian people is not on the electoral register, a grassroots organisation has put together a toolkit to encourage the most regularly disenfranchised groups in the UK to vote.

Data released by the Electoral Commission (EC) estimates that a higher proportion of black and Asian voters, and voters of mixed ethnicity, is not registered to vote.

Campaigners Network.Vote are targeting those groups which face language, information and practical barriers to both registering and voting.

According to the EC, there is a nationwide average of 17% of people who are not registered to vote; while Network.Vote also state that up to 35% of people, registered or not, who regularly do not vote.

The campaign argues that it's often the groups with low rates of voting who are strongly impacted by changes in government policy - including young people, people on low incomes, the homeless, carers, people with disabilities, and Travellers.

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They're targeting the "unheard third" with an online toolkit for different communities incuding posters, flyers and suggestions for prompting conversations about voting and getting registered.

Barriers to voting for these groups can range across, for example, not being aware one is entitled to vote, to unstable working hours, to language difficulties.

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Network.Vote spokesperson Daniel Reast said: "We were keen to pursue a campaign with different tactics and methods than most voter registration drives."

Reast said that he had not personally experienced difficulties in registering to vote, but the knowledge of the barriers for others had fuelled his interest.

"[It] only made me more enthusiastic to work on the campaign, especially considering the marginalised groups who are more statistically less likely to vote," he said.

Overall, the EC estimates that between 8.3 million and 9.4 million eligible voters in Great Britain are not correctly registered at their current address.

The deadline to register is just over a week away, on November 26.

Craig Westwood, director of communications, policy and research at the EC, told the Press Association: "Everyone eligible to vote should be able to do so. It only takes five minutes to register to vote online - time that you might otherwise spend waiting for the kettle to boil or for a bus to arrive. So if you want to make sure your voice is heard, go online and register now."

To be able to vote in the general election on December 12, a person must be registered to vote, 18 years or over on polling day, and also be either a UK or Irish citizen or a qualifying Commonwealth citizen resident in the UK.

See here for more information on Network.Vote.

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