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REGISTRATION CHANGES KEY TO PARTICIPATION IN ELECTIONS

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As a campaign encouraging people to register in time for English local elections was launched, Sam Younger, chairma...
As a campaign encouraging people to register in time for English local elections was launched, Sam Younger, chairman of the Electoral Commission, has urged local authority election staff to prepare for new responsibilities to maximise the numbers on the electoral register.

Speaking at the Association of Electoral Administrators annual seminar in Blackpool, Mr Younger set out some of the provisions in the Electoral Administration Bill, currently in the House of Lords, to improve the way elections are run. In addition to the proposed duty to maximise electoral registration, a key clause would also allow electoral registration officers and returning officers to actively encourage participation in elections and referendums.

Mr Younger also explained the commission's continued support for a move to individual registration to enable election officials to carry out checks to prevent postal voting fraud, and to support multi-channel voting in the future. The commission argues that such a change is essential to enable voters to participate in the democratic process with confidence. He welcomed the provision in the Bill for performance standards for elections officials which should secure more consistency in the way elections are administered across the UK, but pointed to the need for ring-fenced funding for electoral purposes.

A recent report by the Electoral Commission found that up to 3.7 million people in England and Wales, between 8-9% of the eligible population, did not register to vote in 2000. The commission has launched a new campaign - 'Your town, your street, your say' - encouraging people to register so they can vote in elections on 4 May.

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