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After Last Night's Website Crash, the Government Must Extend the Voter Registration Deadline

08/06/2016 10:04 | Updated 08 June 2016
Dan Kitwood via Getty Images

I was in Scotland on the day of the Scottish referendum. I saw young people walking to vote, taking their democratic duty incredibly seriously and talking to each other about the fiscal mandate and Scotland's oil forecast as they walked up the drive of the polling station to vote. That scene in Galashiels was, from what I saw of my campaigning in Scotland, replicated throughout the county and something that was fantastic to see.

So this is why, to me, the voter registration website going down at the 11th hour is so critical. I have been urging people to sign up and make their voice heard for the last couple of weeks. The site went down last night with hours to go for people to register due to a massive demand, in an era of political disengagement, growing cynicism and the rise of populists with a cheap line and dangerous agenda this outpouring of democratic fervour, people keen to register to vote should be supported.

The official voter sign-up website crashed at around 10:15 pm on Tuesday night, just less than two hours before the deadline. 50,000 people were using the service at the time it crashed.

The Government must come forward with emergency legislation or a Statutory Instrument to change the legislation to allow the registration to continue for 24 hours.

Some people will say, and are saying to me on Twitter, that 'why should they?' or they 'have had months'. What I think happened was people watched last night's debate, saw the implications of this vote and decided their vote matters. This vote will not be wasted in safe seats, it will count and will make a difference for the future of the country. I have no idea how these people will vote but this is not the point. I am clearly for Remain but that does not matter in this case. The point is that voting is a cherished democratic ideal and people on both sides of this highly charged debate want more people engaged and having their voice heard.

These people were not 'late' to register; they were within the time limit at their democratic right is now at risk of being snatched from them. No true democrat can defend this.

There is no real reason we could not and should not extend the deadline and make sure that everyone has their chance to have their voice heard and their opinion count.

Tim Farron is leader of the Lib Dems and the MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale

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