In Depth

How to register to vote in the EU referendum before tonight's deadline

MPs pass emergency legislation after website glitch thwarted would-be voters hours before original cut-off

There's still time if you need to register to vote in the EU referendum – but it's running out quickly.MPs are rushing through emergency legislation to extend the deadline to sign up online after the government website crashed shortly before the official cut-off on Tuesday night.

Voters now have until 11.59pm tonight (Thursday) to make sure they have a say on 23 June.

Here is what you need to do:

Am I eligible to vote in the EU referendum?

All British citizens aged 18 and over who are resident in the UK or have been living overseas for less than 15 years are eligible. A full list of these countries can be found here. If you are a citizen of one of these countries and resident in the UK, you are also eligible to vote. Citizens of Ireland and the 53 Commonwealth nations aged over 18 and resident in the UK are also allowed to cast their vote.

EU citizens living in the UK are not able to vote unless they are from Ireland or the Commonwealth nations of Malta and Cyprus. Unlike a general election, members of the House of Lords and UK or Commonwealth citizens living in Gibraltar will also be allowed to vote.

The system changed in 2014 in a bid to reduce fraud, doing away with whole-household registrations to make every voter sign up individually. You will also need to re-register if you have moved house. Those aged 16 and 17 can register to vote, but will not be able to take part in the referendum.

How do I sign up to vote?

People in England, Scotland and Wales can register online. It is now too late to apply by post. The deadline has also passed for Northern Ireland, which was not using the online system.

What information do I need?

Your name, address, date of birth and nationality, as well as your National Insurance number. If you are not sure what this is, you will be required to provide proof of your identity and proof of your address.

When is the deadline to register?

The deadline is now at 11.59pm on 9 June 2016 for those in England, Wales and Scotland.

How do I check if I'm on the register?

Your local electoral registration office can tell you.

Where and when can I vote?

Upon registration, you will be sent a polling card with the details of your nearest polling station. The polls will be open from 7am until 10pm on 23 June.

Can I register to vote by post or by proxy?

The deadline to apply for a postal vote for the EU referendum has now passed, but there is still time to apply to vote by proxy – appointing someone you trust to act on your behalf. You can do this if you are abroad on the date of the referendum, if your work or education means you cannot get to the polling station or if you have a physical condition preventing you from going. Both you and the person you choose must be registered individually to vote. You will need to print off, sign and send the application form to your local electoral registration office by 5pm on Wednesday 15 June.

The deadline for applying to vote by post or proxy In Northern Ireland has passed, unless it is for unforeseen health reasons. More information can be found at the Electoral Office for Northern Ireland website.

Does my vote really count?

Turnout is "key" to the result, says former ambassador Sir Stephen Wall. "Low turnout will mean, broadly speaking, that the sceptical elderly have voted and the enthusiastic young have not," he says.

Polling data suggests Brexiters are more likely to vote than those who wish to stay. "This means we can conclude, generally speaking at least, that a lower turnout come polling day should favour the Leave campaign," says Joe Twyman, the head of political and social research at YouGov.

Whether you choose Leave or Remain, registering to vote has a significance of its own.

"Across the world, people have died fighting for the right to vote and to be part of a democracy – by registering to vote you'll be showing that you think that right is important," says the Electoral Commission.

"Think about it this way – in the UK, less than 100 years ago, people were killed during their struggles to get the vote for women. In South Africa, not until the end of apartheid in 1994 were black people able to vote for the first time. Today, many people across the world are still denied the right to vote."

Students are a particular concern to both campaigns. A recent poll revealed that half of all students polled risk not being able to cast their vote, despite reporting a keen interest in the vote's result, because they are not registered at the address where they are likely to be on referendum day.

"While it is good that many students are interested in the outcome of the referendum, it is of real concern that they may have to re-register to vote at another address," Nicola Dandridge, the chief executive of Universities UK, told Politics Home.

If students are unsure where they will be on polling day, they can register both at home and at university, providing they only vote once, says Richard Brooks, the deputy president of the National Union of Students.

"The EU referendum is a once-in-a-generation vote," he adds. "The decision made will impact young people and students the most as they are the ones that will live with the consequences the longest."

Why was the deadline extended?

Around 500,000 people registered to vote on Tuesday 7 June, the day of the original deadline. The site crashed at around 10.15pm in the wake of David Cameron and Nigel Farage's televised debate. The address was seemingly unable to cope with the influx and many potential voters were met with an error page. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and his Liberal Democrat counterpart Tim Farron were among those to call for the deadline to be extended.

Why are people complaining?

The deadline extension is seen as a "fix" by many Leave campaigners because they think people signing up late will be younger and therefore more likely to support the EU, says BBC political correspondent Ross Hawkins. Leave.EU founder Arron Banks claims the move is "unconstitutional" and is considering launching a legal challenge.

However, the government has said the changes are "legally watertight", pointing out that there is no way of knowing at the point of registration how applicants are going to vote. Even UKIP MEP William Dartmouth agreed: "It is vitally important that those wish to vote on 23 June are given every opportunity to do so. This is a once in a generation issue and nobody should be denied that right because a computer system was overwhelmed," he told his local newspaper, the Plymouth Herald.


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