Thursday, September 08, 2011

on turnout and the franchise


Whilst penning the previous post to this I looked up some numbers on the number of UK residents eligible to vote. We all know voter turnout is alarmingly low: 65% last election and 62% the one before. However, those numbers only represent those registered to vote. There remains a multitude of people in the UK who aren't even registered. I can't find data on the ONS site for number of eligible voters so I wanted to work it out.  Here's some data on the age distribution of the UK population that I found on the ONS website. 
  • In 2010 there were 50,654,000 people in the UK over the age of 16. 
  • 29,691,780 votes cast in the 2010 election. Dividing this figure by 0.65 (the turnout) gives the registered electorate: 45,679,661. 

There is a ~5,000,000 person disparity between these two figures. Of course, not all of those people are eligible to vote as they may be foreign citizens, in prison, mentally incapable, etc. Some prisoners can now vote but if even half of the ~95,000 prisoners in the UK do so that's only ~1% of the missing voters. Can anyone else suggest an identity for the rest of these 5 million voters?

The fucking Tories polled ~11 million votes in 2010. 15 million voters didn't bother or didn't manage to. Another 5 million eligible people weren't even registered to do so. When the proportion of functionally disenfranchised voters approaches 50% (41% in 2010 according to the numbers presented here) you would like to think that a society as conflicted as the UK would start to ask pretty hard questions about the legitimacy of the government. Of course this is barely a footnote in the greater list of glaring inconsistencies in the ConDem coalition government's journey to power but I will not embark upon an opening of that can of worms tonight. I'd just like to remind readers of some of the reasons that I advocate compulsory voting.


  1. Agree wholeheartedly with this. Also worth remembering that nearly all foreign citizens in the UK are eligible to vote in local/EU elections, and a lot are eligible to vote in generals (because anyone from the EU can vote in local and EU, and anyone from the Commonwealth can vote in local and generals).

  2. Thanks John. Interesting point about the furriners and imperial subjects too.

  3. You write:

    * In 2010 there were 50,654,000 people in the UK over the age of 16.
    * 29,691,780 votes cast in the 2010 election. Dividing this figure by 0.65 (the turnout) gives the registered electorate: 45,679,661.

    There is a ~5,000,000 person disparity between these two figures.

    A chunk (albeit perhaps a relatively small one) of that 5 million will be 17 year-olds. Old enough to leave school, legally have kids, pay tax, join the army and drive a car. But not old enough to consume alcohol or vote.

  4. Thanks, Jim. That's a good chunk accounted for. Can't believe I missed it!


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