Fallout from the Scottish referendum
One of the strongest arguments for giving the vote to 16-year-olds, as proposed in Scotland (Editorial, 22 October), is that it is an essential step towards tackling voter under-registration. The Electoral Commission has reported that at least 6 million people are missing from electoral registers. Yet now we see that the under-registration figure is likely to be larger than this, as census details have just been revealed which show that 1.57 million people in England and Wales have second addresses and this will entitle many of them to double registration. If, say, 1 million throughout the UK have done this, that means that under-registration is then over the 7 million mark.With votes at 16, the names of "attainers" would be included on registers when they were 15, showing the dates of their coming birthdays and their then entitlement to vote. If registration for these first-time voters took place via their schools, an initial registration of almost 100% could be achieved. A proactive registration system could then be put in place to ensure that most of those who initially registered did not later in life slip through the net.
As under-registration is high among the 18-25 age group, the poor, the rootless and ethnic minorities, this leads to a situation where the boundaries of parliamentary constituencies are seriously distorted. A system of initial registration via schools, with an associated and imaginative educational programme, could start to correct this imbalance and develop a commitment among young people to use and improve the democratic process. Or are we going to leave it all to Alex Salmond?