An academic from the School of Political, Social and International Studies gave evidence on 3 April 2014, to a Commons inquiry looking at voter engagement in the UK.
Dr Toby James spoke about his research and the importance of electoral administration to voter registration and turnout. He was asked to attend following his submission of written evidence to the ongoing inquiry by the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee.
Dr James is a lecturer in British and comparative politics and his research covers voter turnout and political participation, electoral institutions and electoral malpractice. He is currently looking at how electoral management can be improved in the UK and elsewhere. He is the author of Elite Statecraft and Election Administration (Palgrave 2012), and has written commissioned policy reports for national and international organisations.
The inquiry was announced in January in light of low voter turnouts at UK general elections compared with other European Union countries and evidence that a significant number of people in the UK are not registered to vote, with approximately 6.5 million people missing from the electoral register. It is looking at the reasons for and impact of low voter engagement and how voter turnout could be improved.
Dr James said: “The committee’s inquiry is timely because voter engagement is a pressing problem for British elections and democracy. One in five people are now missing from the electoral register and less than 15 per cent cast a ballot at the Police and Crime Commissioner elections in 2012.
“There are many reasons why voter turnout and registration levels have dropped. My research shows, however, that making the electoral process more convenient for citizens, and investing in electoral services could make a real difference to levels of registration and voter turnout.
“The committee should therefore recommend allowing citizens to register on the day of election, give them the opportunity to register when they come into contact with other government services and keep Internet voting under review.”
Dr James regularly tweets and blogs about these issues. Recent posts have been on postal voting and same-day electoral registration
During the fourth evidence session on Thursday the select committee also heard from Bite the Ballot about the recent National Voter Registration Day. Previous sessions have heard from campaign organisation 38 Degrees, the National Union of Students, Hansard Society and the Electoral Reform Society.
The session can be viewed here: parlimentlive.tv – Dr James is called at 47:40 minutes in.
Further information about the inquiry can be found here.