Website Debacle Meant British Millennials Almost Missed Brexit Vote  

British millennials have a procrastination problem.

Commuters on a train to London looking at their mobile phones and iPad texting and playing games
Commuters on a train to London looking at their mobile phones and iPad texting and playing games
Commuters on a train to London looking at their mobile phones and iPad texting and playing games

Millennials, according to much conventional wisdom, are lazy, self-centered narcissists who habitually wait till the absolute last minute to finish anything that is important but boring. And in Britain, part of that stereotype may not be too far off the mark.

On Tuesday night, thousands of young Brits nearly missed the deadline to register for their country’s referendum on whether to leave the European Union after a massive surge in traffic caused the government-run registration website to crash.

The servers began to fail shortly before midnight, with traffic hitting a peak of more than 200,000 visitors per hour. Many of them received technical error messages. At five minutes before midnight, 26,000 people remained on the website and 20,000 still lingered a minute past midnight, meaning they had missed the deadline.

Millennials, according to much conventional wisdom, are lazy, self-centered narcissists who habitually wait till the absolute last minute to finish anything that is important but boring. And in Britain, part of that stereotype may not be too far off the mark.

On Tuesday night, thousands of young Brits nearly missed the deadline to register for their country’s referendum on whether to leave the European Union after a massive surge in traffic caused the government-run registration website to crash.

The servers began to fail shortly before midnight, with traffic hitting a peak of more than 200,000 visitors per hour. Many of them received technical error messages. At five minutes before midnight, 26,000 people remained on the website and 20,000 still lingered a minute past midnight, meaning they had missed the deadline.

The British government blamed the server failure on “unprecedented demand,” but the root cause seems to lie with young voters who put off registration till the last day.

Most of the 500,000 potential voters who applied to vote on Tuesday were under 34. To further illustrate this age divide, roughly 132,000 of them were under 25, compared to 13,000 between the ages of 65 and 74, according to British broadcasting company Sky News. Older voters, in other words, had registered well in advance of the deadline to weigh in on the so-called “Brexit.”

Other unforeseen problems could also keep Brits from casting votes in the June 23 referendum. On Tuesday, it came to light that German postal workers threw out pre-paid envelopes sent to British citizens living abroad.

But the procrastinators who accidentally missed Tuesday’s deadline will get a second chance. On Wednesday, the government extended the registration deadline by 48 hours to Thursday night.

Jordan Parker, a college student who was among the horde of millennials that crashed the website, told the Telegraph that the government made the “right decision” in extending the deadline.

Despite what some elderly naysayers might think about his and other millennials’ commitment to civic duty, he said he is “excited” to participate in the country’s historic vote.

Photo credit: JOHN KEEBLE/Getty Images

Henry Johnson is a fellow at Foreign Policy. He graduated from Claremont McKenna College with a degree in history and previously wrote for LobeLog. Twitter: @HenryJohnsoon

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