Learning from the Democrats: Increasing voter turnout

Individual Electoral Registration (IER) was ushered in amongst cries of gerrymandering in the summer on 2012; by February 2013 it had been rushed through Parliament and was law. But love it or loath it IER is here to stay. The question now is what can the Labour Party do to ensure it’s not left at an electoral disadvantage?

There are two ways the Labour Party can adapt to this change in the electoral landscape, firstly through legislative and procedural changes – making sure that the system actually works. Secondly, by changing how we campaign. In both cases we can, and must, look to our American cousins for guidance on what to do and what not to do.

In the UK IER is not new, nor is it a Conservative idea, indeed it was in the 2010 Labour Party Manifesto and has been in place in Northern Ireland since 2002. But it brings with it unique problems – most notably the number of electors, and particularly young electors, who have fallen off the electoral register. Between December 2014 and December 2015 the electoral register became 1.48 MILLION voters lighter, despite a growing population.

IER is more of a problem for Labour than it is for the Tories for a number of reasons. Firstly studies suggest that Labour’s core groups of those from a lower socio-economic and the young are less likely to register and even if they are registered they are still less likely to vote. The transient nature of our core vote means that they are more likely to fall off the register as they need to resign every time they move.

So what can be done?

Here is where we can look to the USA for guidance. Although research by the Pew Charitable Trusts estimate that in 2012 at least 51 million Americans (24%) are not registered to vote there have been numerous studies which look to address this. They have highlighted two main paths to increasing voter turnout.

The first is by opening the number of avenues to registration. In 1993 the ‘Motor voter’ Act was passed which required states to offer citizens the ability to register when they renewed their driving licence. The act also allowed states to offer voter registration through public institutions such as libraries, schools and disability centres. In the UK, where electors have to register either online or by the post there is a clear case for opening up this process.

Additionally the Act allows states to implement same-day registration. Meaning that voters do not need to have remembered to register weeks before an election but can register as they are going into the voting booth. In the UK the website for voter registration crashed on the final day of registration for the EU referendum so allowing same day registration would seem sensible.

The second way of increasing voter turnout is to reduce the barriers to being able to register. In several US States the opposite has been happening, with some states attempting to implement ID restrictions on electoral registration. Earlier this year court cases were heard in Texas, North Carolina, Wisconsin and Kansas where the state had tried to restrict the ability of individuals to register of vote, under the guise of restricting voter fraud. This is particularly pertinent as Eric Pickles has recently called for photo ID to be required when voters attend their polling station, again under the auspices to trying to reduce voter fraud.

In the UK you need to know your NI number to register online. While this is not necessarily overly burdensome it does create a barrier to being able to register as not everyone will know or have immediate access to their NI number. Being able to register at government centres, with a photo ID could provide another avenue to easy registration.

But it is not just through legislative and procedural frameworks that the Labour Party must look. Being in government is the best way to ensure those changes and for now at least we are in opposition.

Therefore we must look at having registration drives as a core part of our long term electoral strategy, as they are for the Democrats. The principle behind this is simple, in order to win an election you need to ensure that your supporters vote, and to do this you first need to ensure that they are able to vote. It is essentially an extension of the Get Out The Vote (GOTV) strategy. Parallels can be drawn with the Labour leadership election in 2015 whereby Jeremy Corbyn was able to win by ensuring that the electorate was in his favour.

There will need to be careful consideration as to how this works in practice, previously we didn’t knock on doors where there was no one registered but this might have to change as it could be a house filled with unregistered, Labour supporters.

Labour now need to look ahead as to how it’s going to look to tackle these problems but it’s best chance of doing so successfully is by looking at where others have succeeded or failed in the past.

 

John Sailing is a Young Fabian member and will be attending the USA delegation in September


What makes an electable Labour Leader?

Hardly a day goes by when the leader of the Labour Party is not under threat of losing their position. The current leadership contest is unlikely to end the difficult and fraught debates on the direction of the Labour party. This appears the norm in British politics- an unease that the Labour leader is merely a temporary figure until the next electoral defeat. Labour has produced just six prime ministers, with only Harold Wilson and Tony Blair winning multiple general elections. What in particular made Wilson and Blair so electable?


Black Lives Matter: A movement exploring new territory?

The shooting of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman in 2012 sparked a movement that challenged, and challenges, US society to look at anti-black racism and state violence. Aided by social media, Black Lives Matter (BLM) is moving beyond borders and spreading across the world. It has also had a profound impact on the tone of the US Presidential election – a key moment of exposure being the disruption of Bernie Sander’s campaign rally in Seattle. 

 


Brexit: What now for the City of London?

Just over 2 months ago, 51.9% of the UK voted to leave the European Union. Britain’s economy reacted as expected; the domestically oriented FTSE 250 index fell by 14% in two days, and the pound sterling dropped to a 31-year low against the US dollar at $1.32.


Antics - The Chair

On the morning of the 23rd of June I woke up to a new nation, one treading an uncertain path towards an unsure future. I was saddened, heartbroken and disappointed by the news that the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. This is the most consequential decision our nation has made in modern times, sending the financial markets into turmoil and the future of the British union into doubt. This referendum result has exposed deep-seated division across our nation. However, regardless of my own opinion, the British public have spoken and the Government must now carry out the will of the people.



Young, indebted, democratic

When the coalition first announced the tripling of university tuition fees to £9,000 a year in 2011, they sparked protests across the country. To our friends across the pond, that figure must’ve seemed laughably slight.


Jobs, the economy and the Trump phenomenon

Picture a Donald Trump supporter; someone whom Bill O’Reily would call a ‘Real American’, a Wal-Mart shopping, gun owning, humble, hardworking American. Such stereotypes of Trump supporters are largely unhelpful and self-indulgen - however the latest polling suggests these stereotypes may be found to carry certain truths.



The rise of Trump: 140 characters, anti-establishment or celebrity factor?

Donald Trump is a product of an age where we like our news in 140 characters. His outrageous comments scream to be made into memes. Trump is using social media technology to his advantage having accounts on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Vine, Instagram and Periscope. In a 24/7 news cycle he always gives the goods. Our instant news era means we have a constant demand for news however trivial. This has help enable Trump, who lacks serious political experience and expertise, to become the nominee of the G.O.P.


Why tackle gender inequality in NHS leadership?

Women make up the vast majority of NHS staff, both in clinical and non-clinical functions, and make up the majority of medical students and people entering the health professions. But they are still a minority in the senior ranks of the profession and in senior management. This under-representation of women has the potential to affect the priorities the NHS has in terms of service provision. It also demonstrates quite starkly how even in female-dominated organisations, women have been held back, either deliberately or structurally, from getting to the top.

 


Blockchain, transparency and regulation

In this article I will argue that the regulator should not be concerned with the underlying technology of the blockchain, but rather concern itself with (1) its own use case of blockchain and (2) the regulation of firms that use the blockchain. The article was published on 20 June 2016.