Late surge to register to vote in time for EU Referendum
- Credit: PA
Hopes missing voters could return to the ballot box for the European Union referendum on June 23 have been raised amid reports of a surge in registrations.
Councils in the region have seen as many as two-thirds more applications to vote this week, compared to the run up to a general election.
Norfolk expats are among those rushing to register before the deadline on Tuesday June 7.
While experts say it is too soon to know what the turnout will be and who will vote, those currently registering will either be people who have not previously applied for a vote, people who have moved house or teenagers turning 18. People who have recently cast a ballot should already have received their polling card.
The 2013 Scottish referendum saw the highest recorded turnout of any Scotland-wide poll with 84.6pc casting a ballot. Turnout at last year's general election was 66.1pc.
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Broadland District Council said they were getting considerably more registration requests than they would normally expect before a general election and on Thursday they had roughly 250 registrations, about 100 more than they would expect in the run up to a general election.
Great Yarmouth Borough Council said the number of people signing up to the electoral register in the borough was 'still growing and had accelerated in recent weeks as the referendum approaches'.
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At their last count on May 25 there were 70,929 potential voters on the electoral register compared to 69,793 last year. Norwich City Council, which has a large student population, has also reported a surge in voter registrations.
A spokeswoman said there had been almost double the amount compared to the same period approaching last year's general election, with 962 applications since May 26 compared to about 500 in the same period in the run up to last year's general election.
Tom FitzPatrick, North Norfolk District Council leader, said there had been three to four times as many overseas applications compared to what they would normally expect, although registration within the UK was approximately the same as it would be for a general election.
Norwich MP Chloe Smith, a former cabinet office minister responsible for registration and a campaigner for young registration, said it was really good news people were flocking to get registered for this election.
'I think people are now beginning to make their minds up and weigh up the arguments and look at the evidence, and that is exactly as it should be.' Vote Leave campaigner David Campbell-Bannerman, an MEP for the region, said it was hard to know what the turnout would be as it was different to a general election. He said millions of voters had been lost since 1992, but that there was a passion about the Vote Leave campaign and it could be that there were leave voters coming out that did not normally engage who were registering this time.
Dr Toby James, an expert in voter registration at the University of East Anglia, said there tended to be a spike at this stage before a deadline. But added: 'It is such a once in a generation event it is hard to say how it will pan out at this stage.'
He warned that councils were under a lot of pressure because of changes to voter registration which mean that everyone has to be registered individually and errors could occur. He also said the changes meant there was still a risk of 'under-registration'.
•The deadline to vote is Tuesday. Anyone who isn't already registered to go to www.gov.uk/register-to-vote