Today, we’ve reported that the transition to Individual Electoral Registration (IER) continues to progress well. The May 2015 electoral registers across Great Britain contained 46.8 million entries. This is a 1% increase on the February / March 2014 registers – the last published under the old household registration system.
There’s no doubt that the ability to register to vote online has helped get people onto the registers. In fact, according to the Cabinet Office (who run the www.gov.uk/registertovote website) since the introduction of IER, 75% of all applications to register to vote have been made online.
Despite this good news, our report does also show that there are 1.9 million entries on the registers which are being retained under the transitional arrangements that are in place for IER from the previous household registration system. This figure represents 4% of all register entries.
Given the fact that not everyone on the current register has moved onto the new system; the data and evidence which is available to us at this point; and the scale and importance of the polls scheduled for next May, we have recommended that the end of the transition to IER should take place in December 2016. This is the date set out in legislation.
The same piece of legislation does allow the UK Government to make an Order between June and August 2015 which would bring forward the end of the transition to IER in December 2015. We do not believe this should happen. Our assessment found that:
- There’s significant variation in how the 1.9 million entries that remain on the register as part of the transitional arrangements for IER are distributed across different local authorities.
- It’s not possible at this time to tell how many of these 1.9 million entries are for electors who are still resident at an address, and are eligible to be registered to vote but have not yet registered individually; and how many entries are redundant and relate to electors who are no longer resident at an address.
- While Electoral Registration Officers (EROs) will be working between now and December 2015 to reduce these 1.9 million entries, we cannot know what the impact of this activity will be.
Furthermore May 2016 will see elections to the Scottish Parliament; the National Assembly for Wales; the Mayor of London and London Assembly; Police and Crime Commissioner elections across England and Wales; and local government elections in many areas of England.
If the transition does end in December 2015, all remaining entries relating to electors who are not registered individually will be removed on publication of the revised registers. This creates a risk relating to the completeness of the registers and to participation if entries for eligible electors are removed at this point. Our focus here at the Commission is that the electoral registers support and enable effective participation in elections and referendums by all those who want to take part. This is why we’ve recommended that the end to the transition to IER remains December 2016.
Head of Research