UK Prime Minister David Cameron has said that the Government may extend the EU voter registration deadline, after the official website crashed in the final hours, leaving many people unable to take part in the upcoming referendum.
UPDATE: The deadline for registering to vote in the EU referendum has been extended until Thursday (9th June), the government has said.
More than half a million people registered to vote on Tuesday, with just over two weeks to go until Britain decides whether to stay in the European Union or go it alone on 23 June.
Traffic to the Government’s voter website peaked at around 10.15pm, with more than 50,000 people on the registration page – but many were left disappointed after the service failed during a last-minute rush to sign up.
Some of those trying to register found the message: “Sorry we are having technical problems. Please try again in a few moments.”
The error is a stark reminder to website owners to load-test their sites to withstand spikes in traffic.
A live usage site said more than 26,000 people were online with five minutes to go before the midnight deadline – and 20,000 were still on the site at 12.01am on Wednesday morning.
The government’s data site does not record whether these users were successful or not in attempting to register to vote. It is also not clear whether these figures include those who got an error message.
The Electoral Commission has called for legislation to extend the deadline, saying I n a statement: “There will be many people who wanted to register to vote last night and were not able to.
“The registration deadline is set out in legislation and we have said to the Government this morning they should consider options for introducing legislation as soon as possible that would extend the deadline. We would support such a change.”
Around 132,000 of the people who registered on Tuesday were aged under 25, compared to around 13,000 from the 65 to 74-year-old age group.
Responding to an urgent question in the Commons, Cabinet Office Minister Matthew Hancock said people should carry on registering to vote on the government’s site..
The Prime Minister told MPs the Government was “urgently” considering legislative action to effectively to extend the deadline for participation in the vote.
He said: “I’m very clear that people should continue to register today. The Electoral Commission have made a statement this morning, urging the Government to consider options that would effectively extend the deadline.
“These should include legislative options.We are doing that and discussing it with the Electoral Commission today. We are working urgently with them to do just that, to make sure that those who register today and those who registered last night will be able to vote in the EU referendum.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron were among those who had demanded an extension.
Farron said the Government had presided over “a shambles,” which could be a “major blow” to the prospects of the UK remaining in the EU if young people were denied a say.