Testing the Young Voter Registration Form for the 2014 Referendum on Scottish Independence

This report presents the findings of the testing of the understanding and usability of a draft Young Voter Registration Form which is intended to be used to register 15-year-olds who will be 16 by the date of the referendum, to allow them to vote in the 2014 referendum on Scottish Independence.


2.1 A draft Young Voter Registration Form (YVF) was developed by the Scottish Government. The YVF will be used to register young people to allow them to vote in the 2014 referendum on Scottish independence. This document provides the findings from Ipsos MORI's testing of the YVF.


2.2 In May 2011, the Scottish National Party was elected to form the Scottish Government with a manifesto commitment to hold a referendum on independence during the current parliamentary session at Holyrood (2011-2016). The Scottish Government's consultation, Your Scotland, Your Referendum[1], which was published in January 2012, proposed that the franchise for the referendum should be extended to cover 16 and 17 year olds.

2.3 Following negotiations, on the 15th October 2012, the UK Prime Minister and the Scottish First Minister signed the Edinburgh Agreement[2] which outlines the broad terms under which the referendum may take place - including extending the voting franchise to 16 and 17 year olds. The specific terms of the referendum will be subject to vote by the Scottish Parliament.

2.4 The existing electoral registration system only allows for those aged under 18 to be registered if they will become 18 during the twelve months beginning on the 1st December after their registration. As part of the arrangements for ensuring that all eligible young people (at least 16 at time of the referendum) are able to register to vote in time for the referendum, a 'Young Voter Registration Form' will be distributed to households as part of the next canvass (due Winter 2013 - Spring 2014).

2.5 The Scottish Government has developed a draft YVF, with reference to the principles of the Electoral Commission's "Making Your Mark"[3] guidance and it was designed to be similar in format to the regular annual canvass forms.

2.6 The YVF is intended to collect the details of 15 year olds who will be 16 by the 18th September 2014, the date of the referendum. The registration of 16 and 17 year olds will be covered by the regular annual canvass forms sent out by the Electoral Registration Officers.

2.7 Ipsos MORI was commissioned by the Scottish Government to test the draft YVF with members of the public to assess whether it is user-friendly and that the appropriate information is collected.

2.8 The final version of the YVF is a schedule to the Scottish Independence Referendum (Franchise) Bill, which was introduced to Parliament on the 11th March 2013 and, if supported by Parliament, is due to be passed in summer 2013. Under the Bill, Electoral Registration Officers will be required to use the YVF, alongside annual canvass forms, for the registration of eligible 15 year olds.

Aims and objectives

2.9 The ultimate aim of the study was to test whether the purpose of the YVF was easily understood and whether the form was completed accurately, i.e.:

  • everyone who should be included was included
  • those who should not be included, were not included
  • that the Young Voter Form worked properly in conjunction with the annual canvass form.

2.10 The research was designed to establish whether:

  • people understand what the YVF was for
  • people know who should, and should not, be included on the YVF
  • the correct information about individuals was provided
  • the YVF was easy to complete
  • any improvements could be made to the form to ensure that the above criteria are met.

2.11 The research specifically included groups who were more likely to encounter difficulties, such as those who have lower levels of literacy or whose first language is not English.

2.12 The clarity of instructions for how completed YVFs should be returned to Electoral Registration Officers, the usability of annual canvass forms and attitudes to extending the voting franchise to 16 and 17 year olds were outwith the scope of this study.


Email: Wendy Van Rijswijk

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