Cabinet Office under fire over referendum registration "shambles"

Party leaders call for deadline extension after government website crashes under pressure

By Jim.Dunton

08 Jun 2016

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and his Liberal Democrat counterpart Tim Fallon have called for an extension of the voter registration deadline for the EU referendum after an official government online gateway crashed.

Would-be voters had until 12am today to register in time to take part in the June 23 poll, but what the Cabinet Office described as “unprecedented demand” in the hours leading up to the deadline prompted the "register to vote" section on the GOV.UK portal to crash.

According to some reports more 50,000 requests an hour to register were being made in the run-up to the deadline, but the glitch, which occurred after an ITV debate in which prime minister David Cameron and UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage were quizzed on their stances by a studio audience, gave site visitors a simple error message. 

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Corbyn, who had been using Twitter to provide an hour-by-hour countdown to the cut-off, said the deadline “has to be extended” to cater for would-be voters at risk of being disenfranchised by the glitch.

Farron said the glitch was a “shambles” and called for the registration deadline to be extended until midnight today, a move he subsequently said could be enabled by emergency legislation.

He added that the website crash risked disenfranchising younger, pro-Remain voters in particular, who he said were more likely to make last-minute bids for inclusion on the electoral register.

In an ITV interview this morning, Farage also backed the call to extend the voter registration window, but said it shouldn't "go beyond one day".

The Cabinet Office said more than 500,000 people had registered to vote on Tuesday alone, and that not all attempts to sign up had been unsuccessful.

A spokesman said: "We became aware of technical issues on GOV.UK/register-to-vote late on Tuesday night due to unprecedented demand.

"Some people did manage to get through and their applications were processed. We tried to resolve the situation as quickly as was possible and to resolve cases where people tried to register but were not able to."

The Electoral Commission said it was in dialogue with the Cabinet Office over the issue, but declined to comment further.

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