Fear of voter confusion delays Electoral Commission's push to get public to register

Fear that people will be confused by different messages has prompted the Electoral Commission to delay the launch of a campaign to remind people to register to vote in next month's General Election.

General Election campaign is delayed (©Polling Station by Rachelh_ licensed under CC BY 2.0)
General Election campaign is delayed (©Polling Station by Rachelh_ licensed under CC BY 2.0)

Local elections will take place across the country on Thursday, and the Commission has decided not to put out #GE2017 messages on its social media channels until after they have taken place.

In addition, it will not launch its General Election advertising campaign until Monday – just two weeks before the 22 May deadline for registering to vote.

The timescale is so short that the awareness campaign will be far smaller in scale – and cost – than that of the last General Election, when the campaign was launched two months in advance and had a budget of £3.2m.

This time around, the campaign will last for just two weeks and has a budget of £1.6m.

With the exception of some radio adverts, no new creative will be used. Adverts from 2015 are being "repurposed" and used across broadcast media and social channels including Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, as well as on Google search.

Specific groups being targeted include 18- to 34-year-olds, students, and those who have changed address in the past year.

Emma Hartley, head of campaigns and corporate communications at the Electoral Commission, told PRWeek: "We have deliberately chosen 8 May to launch because we didn't want people to be confused with the elections that are happening this Thursday."

She describes the budget as "comparable to what we spent in the past two weeks of our 2015 campaign".

The one exception to the delay caused by the local elections is the target group of UK expatriates. Adverts began running on Facebook yesterday, aimed at Britons living in 98 countries worldwide.

In contrast, the campaign to raise awareness among this group in 2015 began several months before the election.

Asked about the lack of time to prepare due to the election being called at short notice, Ms Hartley remarked: "It's about doing what we can in the time we have."

When pressed on the matter, she admitted: "Ideally we would have as much time as possible to make sure that as many people who are eligible are ready to vote at the General Election."

The comms chief added that news of the General Election has already had an impact on people, some of whom had gone online and registered to vote.

And new guidance being issued by the Commission to election officials across the country warns them to be prepared for "heightened interest and scrutiny – for example, from the media, taking into account factors such as the 24 hour news culture and the prominence of social media".

Click here to subscribe to the new FREE public sector bulletin to receive dedicated public sector news, features and comment straight to your inbox.

If you wish to submit a news, comment, case study or analysis idea for the new public sector bulletin, please email Ian.Griggs@haymarket.com

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Already registered?
Sign in