Young people, private renters and EU citizens are most at risk of missing out on the chance to have their voice heard in this month's European elections, campaigners said today. With the 7th May deadline fast approaching, almost eight million people in Britain are not yet registered to vote on Thursday 23rd May, according to research by pro-Remain group Best For Britain and Number Cruncher Politics.
The alarming figure – which is based on population and nationality data, research by the Electoral Commission and more, the Guardian reported – suggests far more needs to be done to engage the public in the European parliamentary elections. The country was never due to take part in the process, of course, because under Article 50 we were due to leave the EU on 31st October. But unless Theresa May gets her withdrawal deal through parliament beforehand – that is, within three weeks – they will be going ahead, and as it stands, it's the most Remain-supporting demographics that are the most underrepresented on the electoral register.
Green Party MP and vocal Remainer Caroline Lucas called the current number of unregistered voters "really concerning". "This analysis shows nearly eight million people could be at risk of losing the right to have their voice heard at such a crucial juncture for the country’s future, with young people, private renters and EU citizens some of the groups most at risk of missing out. That needs to change," she said.
GetVoting.org – a website created by Best of Britain, which was founded by Gina Miller (who took the government to the supreme court over Brexit and won), has created a special website – to simplify the process, which is worth sharing on social media if you're similarly keen to encourage people to take part.
Who can vote
British, Irish, Commonwealth and EU citizens (other than those from Malta and Cyprus) who live in the UK, as well as British citizens who live abroad. As usual, you'll need to be 18 or over on election day.
How to register
Head to the government's voter registration portal ASAP. You may already be on the electoral register if you've voted in previous elections or in the EU referendum. If so, you only need to register again if you've changed address, name or nationality, the site explains. You can also change the way you vote – be that in person, by post or by proxy – through the service.
The whole process takes just five minutes and all you need to know is your National Insurance number, plus your passport details if you're a British citizen living abroad who wants to vote in England, Scotland or Wales.
To reiterate, EU citizens – who weren't able to vote in the 2016 EU referendum – can have their voices heard this time around. If you're an EU citizen living in England, Scotland or Wales, you need to register to vote, download and fill out the European Parliament voter registration form, and send it to your local Electoral Registration Office, the address of which can be found on the government's website. The process for EU citizens living in Northern Ireland is slightly different but just as straightforward: simply download the country's Electoral Office's form and send it to the organisation's headquarters.
Who is in the running?
Across the UK, there are 12 electoral regions – with each represented by between three and 10 MEPs – and a total of 73 seats to the European parliament up for grabs. Find out who's standing in your area and for which party, if any, on WhoCanIVoteFor.co.uk.
Nigel Farage's recently-launched Brexit party is, regrettably, on the ballot and expected to poll well, though commentators, including the New Stateman's Stephen Bush, believe Remain supporters shouldn't be too worried. Internal European Parliament projections, reported on by the Financial Times recently, suggest that between the two main parties, Labour will take the most seats, followed by the Conservatives. The Greens and Lib Dems are expected to tie, with the Brexit Party and independents predicted to take the remaining seats.
Why these elections matter
It may seem counterintuitive to bother voting at all, considering that the UK is currently due to leave the EU on the 31st October (with a chance that we'll leave before then if the PM's withdrawal agreement gets through parliament), but the results really matter. Many political commentators believe the result will be a barometer for the way the voters now feel about Brexit three years on. If the countless polls suggesting that the referendum – were it to be repeated – would now render a Remain vote, are to be believed, it could even be worth staying up to watch the results roll in on election night.