Brexit: 200,000 people register to vote in 72 hours

By Will Chalk
Newsbeat reporter

  • Published
A policeman at a polling stationImage source, Getty Images

Nearly 200,000 people have applied to register to vote in just 72 hours, and more than half of them are under 35.

That's according to official government figures.

Since the start of the week there has been a lot of speculation that a general election is on the way, with the prime minister trying, and failing, to trigger one on Tuesday night.

MPs will get to vote again on Monday on whether to hold an early general election.

Media caption,
The motion for an early election on 15 October is rejected.

Sym Roe, from the non-profit Democracy Club, says although there are usually spikes in registrations when students heading to university have to re-apply with their new address, these stats are "quite unusual".

"Compared to other years this is several times bigger than what we would expect for early September.

"It's very unusual to see something like this before an election has even been announced, but it's almost certainly because of all the talk there has been around one."

His impartial organisation aims to help people understand the basic information they need to take part in elections.

He adds that you'd normally expect the age ranges of applicants to be "fairly well distributed" - not skewed towards younger people.

More than 199,000 people have registered to vote in the last three days, with 118,000 of them between 18 and 35.

'Watching the country get hit by a bus'

"It's been quite difficult to watch," says 20-year-old Riley, a builder in Leeds.

"I was 17 when the EU referendum happened and it was like watching the country get hit by a bus - and you can't do anything about it."

He's registered to vote and, when there is a general election, it will be the first time he's been able to have his say.

Image caption,
Riley says he would either vote for the Conservatives or the Green Party

"Everyone seems to be in limbo. We seem to move forward and further back. Within three years we've moved nowhere.

"I've had enough time now to stand back and think and have an idea of what's going on."

But he doesn't think young voters are taken seriously enough.

"We're seen as being a bit naive. People believe we don't know what the real world is like."

Image caption,
Olivia thinks the Lib Dems are the only party who "really want to sort out this mess"

"Young people are pretty discounted by politicians," says Olivia, who goes to John Moores University in Liverpool.

"They didn't lower the age to vote on something that would affect all of us. We didn't get a say in our futures because I don't think they'd have liked the answer.

"It's been deeply frustrating having to watch Brexit happen and not being able to do anything about it. I was a few months off turning 18. I just had to watch the chaos."

The 20-year-old says she's planning to back the Lib Dems and that she's looking forward to being able to "impact some change".

Despite the surge, there are still worries that if an election is called at short notice, people will miss out.

"We estimate that a third of 18-24 year-olds are not correctly registered, or missing entirely from the register," says Dr Toby James, a professor of politics and public policy at the University of East Anglia.

"It is always the case that you see people turned away at polling stations or registering after the deadline.

"Whenever that happens that's going to profoundly affect everyone but especially young people for many generations to come."

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