Hogan Lovells have shown their commitment to democracy and community by providing a full advisory service to establish a new social enterprise Bite the Ballot, the first of its kind in the UK. It seeks to engage young people in the democratic process through IT solutions and help them understand the part they play in it and actively lobby for change.
There is an ever-widening democratic gap in the UK that has arisen from poor representation of young people on the electoral register and at the polls. In 2010, 54 per cent of 18-24 year-olds were registered to vote; of that number only 44 per cent voted. Studies show that voting encourages active citizenship, which starts with being registered to vote.
At Hogan Lovells it is widely felt that active participation in the democratic process is crucial for guaranteeing a free and fair society, particularly in 2015, with a general election, as well as the anniversary of the Magna Carta. Hogan Lovells recognised that many young people do not see the relevance of democracy, and saw this as potentially undermining the rule of law.
As a result of this interest, Hogan Lovells set up a unique programme of pro bono advice and engagement in partnership with social enterprise Bite the Ballot (BTB). Their investment in BTB includes 45 lawyers providing over 770 hours of pro bono policy and legal advice at a value of over £402,000.
Significant issues addressed
Working with Gordon Nardell QC, Hogan Lovells developed the 'Voter Registration Bill', now before Parliament, which incorporates a duty on Electoral Registration Officers to engage with schools and colleges to ensure the electoral roll is up to date by:
a) increasing the number of young voters, and
b) enabling people to register more easily by ticking a box when filling in forms, such as applying for a passport or driver's license.
Hogan Lovells also advised on:
- an amendment for the Welsh Bill progressing through Parliament - now in the House of Lords
- an Early Day Motion for MPs and Parliamentary Questions addressed to the deputy PM, Question Time and Political and Constitutional Reform Select Committee Inquiry, and
- the discrimination of disabled people in the registration process, alongside charity Muscular Dystrophy Campaign and their young Trail Blazers Group.
Hogan Lovells have had a significant impact on addressing democratic engagement in the UK through legislative changes and facilitating the registration of over 500,000 young people in the lead up to the election.
Pre-2014 no major party considered the issue of engaging young people to register to vote.
Hogan Lovells secured manifesto pledges from four of five major parties to introduce the Voter Registration Bill.
Hogan Lovells assisted BTB in running the first annual NVRD in 2014, seeing over 400 events hosted nationwide, registering 55,000 young people in one day. This included over 40 Hogan Lovells volunteers delivering training to our partner schools in Islington resulting in 190 registrations. Building on the success of 2014, NVRD in 2015 registered over 441,500 young people.
As well as legal advice , our volunteers have registered over 700 young people in schools through the initiatives.