Headlines: October 16th, 2002

Local authorities are helping to get more people to register to vote and to turn out at elections, according to research carried out for the Electoral Commission.The Commission is calling on councils to build on the work they have already done since the 2001 General Election saw voter turn out drop to an historic low of 59.4 per cent.

The Electoral Commission report, “Making An Impact: The Local Promotion of Electoral Issues,” looks at what councils are already doing to raise awareness of the electoral process and the importance of voting.

One of the authors, Professor Ivor Gaber, says, ” The research has shown that by making full use of a wide range of communications tools and by sharing best practice, local authorities can make a difference to levels of electoral registration and turn out.”

Professor Gaber prepared the report with Adrian Wardle a colleague at CLEAR, a communications and training consultancy. The document is based on the results of a questionnaire, the outcome of focus groups and other consultation exercises which looked at the effectiveness of a number of local campaigns designed to boost interest in the democratic process.

As well as highlighting the creativity of some campaigns it points out that many initiatives have concentrated on getting people to register rather than on the importance of voting.

Electoral Commissioner Pamela Gordon said, ” It is clear that many local authorities are producing both original and effective campaign materials. The commission hopes local authorities will be able to build on this work by focusing on campaigns designed to facilitate turnout as well as to promote registration.