UK Politics

Ad campaign to raise awareness of voting referendum

Animated video being used to promote awareness of the 5 May referendum on the voting system
Image caption An animated character will explain the two voting systems which are the subject of the referendum

An advertising campaign to raise awareness of next month's referendum on how MPs are elected is beginning.

Adverts for TV, radio and newspapers will inform people that "something big" is happening on 5 May, when devolved elections across the UK and council polls in England will also take place.

The ads highlight an Electoral Commission information booklet on the polls being sent to all households.

The referendum is the first UK-wide poll of its kind since 1975.

Voters will be asked whether they want to stick with the current first-past-the-post system for electing MPs or to switch to a different process known as the alternative vote.

The ad campaigns are designed to draw people's attention to the referendum poll as well as to the forthcoming elections to the Scottish Parliament, the National Assembly of Wales, the Northern Ireland Assembly and to approximately 280 councils across England.

The ads focus on the election watchdog's information booklets, which will be posted to 27.8 million UK households from Friday.

Details in the booklets - drawn up with the help of academics and "plain language experts" - include descriptions of the two electoral systems that voters must choose between, the referendum question being posed and details of how to vote in all the elections.

The ads also give details of a website - - where the information can be accessed.

The watchdog is spending £6m on its information campaign ahead of the elections, the most significant test of public opinion since last year's general election.

It is releasing an animated video which will feature a character called Victor explaining the two voting systems.

Meanwhile the "yes" and "no" campaigns are continuing their efforts to win over voters ahead of the referendum.

Prime Minister David Cameron on a visit to Swansea, who is campaigning to keep first-past-the-post, acknowledged that many people felt that the referendum was a "bit of a sideshow" but argued it was "hugely important to our country".

He said: "It is a system so undemocratic that your vote for a mainstream party counts once, while someone can support a fringe party like the BNP and get their vote counted several times."

He added: "We've got to vote no to this crazy system."

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who is campaigning for a switch to AV, is also due to speak later - he argues that the current system allows MPs to court the votes of a few thousand people in marginal seats and ignore the rest.

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