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June 8, 2016

Has Register to Vote website crash lost the EU Referendum the youth vote?

Analysis: Website crash should also be a wake-up call for the UK government in terms of digital economy. Has Register to Vote website crash lost the EU Referendum the youth vote?

By Ellie Burns

The latest Brexit headline to hit the front pages does not involve immigration or economy, but an IT glitch which crashed the voter registration website on the last day of registrations.

Last night, June 7, saw both Nigel Farage and PM David Cameron take to a televised debate on the upcoming EU Referendum. It was also the last day in which people could register to vote, with the combination of these two factors leading to a last-minute rush of people trying to register before the midnight deadline.

However, an IT glitch crashed the government’s website, meaning tens of thousands of potential voters were unable to complete registration by the deadline.

Sparking a major voter registration row amongst the UK government and the Electoral Commission, the IT glitch could result in an extension to the registration deadline with even the PM trying to assuage voter fears by saying in PMQs that the government will work ‘with [the Electoral Commission] to make sure those who are registered today and those last night will be able to vote.’

However, a deadline extension may be the least of the UK government’s worries, with many experts saying that the shambles ensuing from the website crash may disenfranchise voters and swing important votes.

A major focus of both the remain and leave campaigns was young voters, a key demographic which may have been a major casualty of last night’s glitch. John Rakowski, Director of Technology Strategy at AppDynamics, said:

"Digital technology has revolutionised the way we interact with organisations – from shopping to banking, and now voting. The impact of young voters on the outcome of the EU referendum is unquestionable and technology plays a vital role. It’s unacceptable that thousands of Brits were left unable to vote due to an IT glitch that should have been anticipated and planned for months ago."

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The struggle to lure millennials and young voters into the EU referendum vote has been well publicised, with both camps trying out different ways in which to get the key demographic vote – an example being the Remain campaign’s ‘Workin, Earnin, Makin, #Votin’ video, designed to speak to the ‘easyJet generation.’

However, the IT glitch may have undone both campaigns’ efforts to lure the young voter – with millennials and the so-called easyJet generation well known for having no time for buffering, loading or crashes and instead valuing speed, efficiency and user experience.

And its a major demographic when it comes to those who are, and who are not, set to vote. A YouGov poll found that only 51%were certain to vote at all. More than a third of those polled said they had not been following the debate and one in 10 said they had been actively avoiding it. Almost 30% of under-25s were not registered to vote at the time of the mid-May poll.

The IT glitch should also be a cause of concern for the UK government’s digital economy plans – one of the most important referendums in UK history has descended into chaos due to IT problems. The government may have a hard lesson to learn in terms of votes, but also a hard lesson to learn in terms of IT infrastructure and management. Michael Allen, Solutions VP, Dynatrace said:

"Wherever the finger of blame ends up this time, it’s important that anyone trying to compete or engage in today’s digital economy takes note of the very important lesson that’s been drawn to our attention once again. It’s vital that organisations can provide a seamless user-experience for those trying to use their website. If that website is likely to experience peaks in demand, at times when it’s critical for your audience to have access, then you need to be confident that it can handle the extra traffic."

 

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