Register To Vote Deadline Extension Backed By Electoral Commission

Electoral Commission wants emergency legislation amid legal threat.

08/06/2016 11:45 | Updated 08 June 2016

David Cameron has advised people to continue registering to vote, after technical problems potentially prevented thousands from being able to vote in the EU referendum.

UPDATE: Government triggers ‘emergency’ law to extend deadline by 48 hours

The Prime Minister’s advice came despite the deadline for registration ahead of the poll passing at midnight on Tuesday.

The government’s voter application website crashed at around 10:15 pm last night, less than two hours before the deadline.

Statistics showed 50,000 people were using the service at the time it crashed.

The Electoral Commission today called for a change to laws governing registration deadlines, opening the door to an extension.

Find out how to register to vote here.

Some 50,000 were attempting to apply to register to vote at around 10:15pm last night

The Commission said, that while it was still looking into what happened, "it is vital that everyone who wants to participate in this historic referendum is able to."

Some users experienced issues accessing pages beyond the initial sign-up screen, the BBC reported.

Remain campaigner and Lib Dem MP John Pugh told talkRadio on Wednesday: “Maybe people should have been better at using an electronic system… Yet they must be allowed the right to register.”

“Rules are rules and they need to be observed, the Electoral Commission has the chance to make a move and get their house in order.

“I think if there was no move on this they may well be a legal challenge.”

Martin Lewis told BBC Newsnight there were fears over the glitches' impact on democracy

Consumer expert Martin Lewis expressed fears about the democratic implications after the glitch.

He told BBC Newsnight: “What about all those people trying between 10 and 11 o’clock who struggled, who’ve now got to go to bed because they’ve got to get up early in the morning.

“Of course they should have done it earlier, but they haven’t and we say voter registration is open until midnight - well it hasn’t been for them.

“I want to know what the government plans to do about it.

“I don’t know the logistics… but I think you probably want to communicate the computer’s gone down and keep it on for at least the morning.

Earlier, Jeremy Corbyn led calls for an extension after the issues.

Sky News presenter Kay Burley reported that many of those affected were under 40 years old, the age bracket most likely to vote Remain, according to polls.

Commentator Julia Hartley-Brewer told her talkRadio programme: “Some analysis of what happened in the run-up to the general election last year found 5 million applications to vote, but the voter register only increased by just over 1 million.

“Maybe the number of eligible voters affected last night may be very, very small indeed.”

Hartley-Brewer was among those who questioned whether those leaving it to the last minute to apply to vote in the referendum would cast their ballots.

Another commentator said that the failure of the website came after “weeks of publicity funded by taxpayers.” “It’s your own fault,” they added.

Others made analogies.

And the furore was succinctly summed up.

And a petition to extend the deadline had reached over 2,000 signatures at the time of publication.

“The deadline has passed, but the government could allow an emergency extension if there’s enough of an outcry,” it read. 

David Cameron tweeted his advice on Wednesday morning, minutes before Prime Minister's Questions.

The Electoral Commission said earlier: "There will be many people who wanted to register to vote last night and were not able to.

"The registration deadline is set out in legislation and we have said to the Government this morning they should consider options for introducing legislation as soon as possible that would extend the deadline. 

"We would support such a change."

In a statement the Cabinet Office said: "We became aware of technical issues on [the registration website] late on Tuesday night due to unprecedented demand.

"Some people did manage to get through and their applications were processed. We tried to resolve the situation as quickly as was possible and to resolve cases where people tried to register but were not able to."

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