News

February 6th 2015

MINISTERS LAUNCH CAMPAIGN TO BOOST ARMED FORCES’ VOTER REGISTRATION

Defence Minister Anna Soubry and Cabinet Office Minister Sam Gyimah visited Chetwynd Barracks, Chilwell, on Thursday 5 February to mark the launch of a Government campaign to increase electoral registration among the Armed Forces.

To coincide with National Voter Registration Day (NVRD), the ministers spoke to soldiers about how vital it was that the Armed Forces have the chance to exercise their democratic right to vote in this year’s General Election.

While around 85% of the general population are on the electoral roll, the lower ranks of the Army and Royal Marines are reported as 60% and 61% respectively. Elsewhere, the Navy and RAF lower ranks reported rates of 75% and 74% respectively.

The Government has made over £14 million available aimed at maximising voter registration. The funding is being shared between local authorities, national organisations and other government campaigns to help them encourage people to register to vote, including under registered groups. For the first time, the Cabinet Office has allocated £500,000 of the funding to the Ministry of Defence to encourage service personnel to register in time for the deadline of 20 April.

Anna Soubry, Minister for Defence Personnel, Welfare and Veterans, said: “Politics affects everything from the food you eat, to the streets you walk on and the air you breathe. Voting gives people the opportunity to have a say on the important issues that affect them. Defence is inherently associated with the democratic process – its purpose is to seek to defend freedoms of democracy, and by registering to vote personnel can demonstrate that they think this is an important right.

“Being in the Armed Forces can sometimes make it difficult to remain on the electoral register, particularly if personnel move around regularly or are posted overseas. And in common with the wider population, young service personnel are less likely to register to vote than those who are older.”

Cabinet Office Minister Sam Gyimah at Chetwynd Barracks, ChilwellCabinet Office Minister Sam Gyimah at Chetwynd Barracks, ChilwellCabinet Office Minister Sam Gyimah said: “The bravery and service given by the men and women of the Armed Forces to our country is vast. It is only right that they use their right to vote and have their say over how our country is run. I am pleased that I have been able to secure this funding from the Cabinet Office to make sure everyone in the Forces has the opportunity to register to vote in time for the General Election in May.”

The new campaign is underpinned by the principles of the Armed Forces Covenant, and the Government’s commitment to ensuring that serving and former members of the Armed Forces are not disadvantaged by their service and therefore not less likely to vote. Service personnel, along with their spouses or civil partners, can choose to register as a Service Voter. This means they can register at a fixed address in the UK for a five-year period and those who are posted overseas can register at their previous UK address, or if they live in the mess during the week they can register at the address where they spend weekends or leave.

Once registered, there are three ways to vote – in person, by post or by proxy.

During 2014, the Government oversaw the modernisation of the system of electoral registration to make it fit for the 21st century. One key feature of the transition has been the introduction of on-line registration, which makes registering to vote more convenient and accessible than ever before. The changes also mean that postal ballot papers can now be dispatched much earlier than before – as early as 19 working days before the 2015 general election compared to 11 working days before the 2010 general election. This should make it easier for personnel serving overseas to vote by post if they wish.

Registering for the 7 May 2015 UK Parliamentary General Election on-line takes as little as three minutes, is simple and secure and can be done on a smartphone or tablet via www.gov.uk/register-to-vote-armed-forces.