London comes together to raise awareness about changes to the voting system and to encourage voter registration – South Asia Time

London comes together to raise awareness about changes to the voting system and to encourage voter registration

 September 18, 2023  

London — The Greater London Authority (GLA) and Shout Out UK (SOUK) have launched the fifth annual London Voter Registration Week to help under-represented and under-registered Londoners access their right to vote. 

Local councils, civil society organisations and education institutions across the capital have joined together to support the voter registration campaign which is designed to address the equalities impact of the Elections Act (2022), especially the introduction of mandatory photo ID to vote.

The Electoral Commission’s full report into the impact of photo Voter ID at the May 2023 elections [1] found that some voters, especially ethnic minority, disabled, young and low income, have found it harder to vote because of the new requirement to show an accepted photo ID at polling stations. This was due to a lack of appropriate ID and low awareness of the need to bring it when voting. Both the Electoral Commission report, and the report of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Democracy and the Constitution [2], call on the UK Government to review the current list of accepted forms of ID to identify any additional documents that could be included to improve accessibility for voters.

In its fifth year, London Voter Registration Week (LVRW) 2023 is raising awareness about who can vote and how to do it, including the option to register anonymously for those concerned about their name and address appearing on the electoral register. It will advise on steps to apply for a free Voter Authority Certificate for Londoners who do not have any accepted form of photo ID.

The GLA campaign will inform Londoners via social media, grassroots community engagement and events in education institutions. It will include accessible materials for Deaf and disabled Londoners, with resources available in Easy Read format and 16 community languages, including British Sign Language. Londoners will also have access to the GLA Democracy WhatsApp chatbot (+44 7908 820136) that will help them navigate the voting changes, answer frequently asked questions, and point to GLA Political Literacy resources.

The collective action comes as figures show London already has one of the lowest voter registration rates across the UK [3]. Three in 10 young Londoners (aged 16-24) are not registered to vote [4], with young Londoners, alongside Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic and migrant Londoners, including Commonwealth and EU Londoners; and social and private renters, the most under-registered and under-represented groups [5]. Many of these Londoners are also Deaf and disabled and on low incomes. 

These under-registered and under-represented Londoners have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and the ongoing cost of living crisis and are at a higher risk of losing their vote when the impact of the Elections Act 2022 is felt in May 2024, when the next London elections will be held.

Since January 2023, the GLA together with statutory and civil society partners from across London have significantly increased awareness of the introduction of photo Voter ID, but one in four Londoners are still not aware. Ethnic minority and migrant Londoners, disabled Londoners, young Londoners, low-income Londoners and already under-registered Londoners are the least likely to be aware [6]. More awareness raising and support is needed around: the list of accepted forms of photo Voter ID; the steps to apply for a free Voter Authority Certificate, as just 1 in 5 Londoners claim to have heard of it (20 per cent); and around the upcoming changes to postal and proxy voting, as only 28 per cent and 14 per cent, respectively, are aware.

Matteo Bergamini, CEO/ Founder, Shout Out UK: 
“Born and raised in London by an immigrant mum, I could not be prouder that our city is at the forefront of ensuring every single Londoner, regardless of background, is engaged in our democracy through a campaign filled with cutting edge democratic engagement innovation. So join us, your boroughs, education institutions and many civil society organisations this London Voter Registration Week by registering, informing yourself of the coming changes to our elections and ensuring your ‘democratic health’ is in check!”

Phil Stevens, CEO, Disability Action Haringey: 
“Disability Action Haringey have partnered with a number of other DDPOs, as well as Inclusion London and are proud to be supporting the London Voter Registration Week 2023 with the GLA and the wider Voter ID campaign.

DAH will be supporting D/deaf and Disabled Londoners to register to vote, get an accepted form of photo ID to vote, or apply for the free Voter Authority Certificate, and raise awareness of the requirement to have suitable photo ID at the polling station in order to be able to vote. We feel it is also important to raise levels of democratic literacy among our community and regarding the wider equality implications of the Voting System Changes, brought in by the Election Act (2022), to ensure under-registered and under-represented Londoners get heard.”

Nishan Dzhingozyan, Founder, Bulgarian Centre for Social Integration and Culture: 
“We believe that everyone should have access to correct and reliable information in order to understand and access their rights. Many Londoners from Eastern European backgrounds are from countries with not very long history of democratic traditions and being able to vote and engage in democratic processes is a step that is complex and important.”

Aaron Lartey, Communications and Engagement Assistant, Jack Petchey Foundation:
 “At the Jack Petchey Foundation, we strongly believe in empowering young voices. Given that young people are among the least likely groups to register and more likely to be under-represented in voting, we proudly announce our support for London Voter Registration Week 2023. We can pave the way for a brighter future by encouraging more young people to vote.”

Rebecca Deegan, Founder and CEO, I Have a Voice:
“I Have a Voice is proud to support the London Voter Registration Week. Our work will help people understand the power of their vote and how they can use it to make the changes they want to see. We want to help under-represented young people to feel empowered to vote and have their voices heard!”

Andrew Dewey, Interim CEO, The Royal Association for Deaf people: ”The Royal Association for Deaf people proudly supports London Voter Registration Week. We are committed to enabling deaf individuals to engage fully in the democratic process and have their say. Together we amplify the power of democracy by making it accessible to all.”