U.K. Works to Extend Voter Registration for EU Referendum

  • Official registration website crashed shortly before deadline
  • Cameron says voters who register Wednesday should be eligible

The U.K. government is working with the Electoral Commission to extend the registration deadline for this month’s European Union referendum after many people were prevented from signing up in time.

The government website suffered technical “issues” at about 10:15 p.m. on Tuesday, leaving many late registrants unable to sign up by the midnight deadline, the Commission said Wednesday in an e-mailed statement. It urged the government to extend the registration period. The crash came just after the end of an ITV referendum special featuring Prime Minister David Cameron and U.K. Independence Party leader Nigel Farage.

“We’re working urgently with them to do just that and to make sure all those who registered today and who registered last night will be able to vote in the EU referendum,” Cameron told lawmakers in Parliament on Wednesday. He said huge demand had caused “system overload.”

In a statement to Parliament, Cabinet Office minister Matthew Hancock said legislative options are being explored to allow people to vote. At its peak, the website was processing 214,000 registrations per hour before it crashed, eclipsing the previous record of 74,000 per hour before last year’s general election, he said. A total of 525,000 people registered on Tuesday.

“People should register now, today, and we will bring further information as and when we can,” he said.

Youth Vote

Pro-Remain campaigners had expressed fears that the problem could disproportionately affect younger voters, who polls show are more likely to choose to stay in the 28-nation bloc in the June 23 referendum. That’s because of a concerted campaign this week targeted at getting the young to register.

“Evidence shows younger people are overwhelmingly pro-European, and if they are disenfranchised it could cost us our place in Europe,” Liberal Democrat party leader Tim Farron said in an e-mailed statement. “It could also turn them off democracy for life. Voters must be given an extra day while this mess is sorted out urgently.”

Even Farage, whose party wants Britain out of the EU. conceded the deadline should be extended. “If the website crashed last night then maybe the sensible thing is to extend it by a day but I wouldn’t go beyond that,” he said in an ITV television interview.

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