Voter registration to be extended after website crash

David Cameron in the Commons today
David Cameron in the Commons today
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THE DEADLINE to register to vote in the EU referendum has been extended until midnight on Thursday.

Emergency legislation will be put before the House of Commons today so that more people get the chance to go the polls on June 23.

The Electoral Commission called for the Government to consider legislation to extend the deadline after their website crashed from 10.15pm on Tuesday.

The website was processing 214,000 applications an hour when it failed.

Matt Hancock, Minister for Cabinet Office and Paymaster General who fielded a number of questions from angry MPs about the website crash, said: “Following discussions with the Electoral Commission and strong cross party support expressed in the House of Commons, we will introduce secondary legislation to extend the deadline for voter registration until midnight tomorrow.

“Having taken the decision today, we think it is right to extend to midnight tomorrow (9 June) to allow people who have not yet registered time to get the message that registration is still open and get themselves registered.”

The Government has now announced that they plan to introduce legislation that will allow people who make applications today, Wednesday 8, and up to midnight on Thursday June 9.

Alex Robertson, Director of Communications at the Electoral Commission said: “No one should miss out on voting in this historic referendum because of the problem with the Government’s registration website last night.

“We are urging everyone who is not already registered to vote to take this last chance to do so before the end of Thursday (9 June).”

Both David Cameron and leader of Vote Leave Michael Gove shared a rare moment of unity in the referendum campaign as they said they were in favour of allowing as many people to register to vote as possible.

Government minister Matt Hancock was hauled before the Commons this morning after Gloria De Piero, Labour’s Shadow Minister for voter registration, tabled an emergency question on the website debacle.

She told him that “the tens of thousands of voters who were trying to register when the voter registration site crashed” could have a decisive impact on the result.

Questions were also raised about the stress testing that had taken place on the website beforehand to make sure it was fit to handle the volume of people wanting to register.

Conservative MP and chair of the influential Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, Bernard Jenkins, said the Government had been ill-prepared, while former leader of the Scottish National Party Alex Salmond said individual voter registration had contributed to the last-minute scramble to register.

He said hundreds of thousands of “fellow citizens” had been effectively disfranchised by the process of individual registration and the lack of electoral canvass.

He said: “The Government were not worried about that, because it mostly involved young people whom they did not think would vote for them anyway. Now the Minister is concerned, and he is standing in this House, hoist by his own gerrymandered petard.”

Mr Hancock denied Government changes to voter registration in 2014, which removed the ability of a ‘head of household’ to register for a group of people, had anything to do with the referendum registration process.

Around 4.5m people have registered to vote so far, with 525,000 people completing applications on what was supposed to be the final deadline on Tuesday.

On average the site was processing 74,000 applications an hour, which shot up to 214,000 an hour at the time of the crash.

It is understood that some campaigners wanting to leave the EU believe that a 48 hour extension for a 1 hour and 45 minute hold-up is a disproportionate reaction as there has been speculation a larger turn-out may favour the Remain camp.