The Electoral Commission

The independent body which oversees elections and regulates political finance in the UK

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5. Registration and voting in more than one area

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Registration and voting in more than one area

We want to work with the UK Government to explore whether possible solutions to identify duplicate registration applications could also help to reduce the risk of people voting in more than one constituency at a UK Parliamentary general election.

The Government should also consider others options for reducing this risk, such as requiring people who are lawfully registered to vote in local government elections for more than one local authority area to choose which of those addresses they will vote at for UK Parliamentary general elections.

In the days following the election, a number of people on social media claimed that they had voted twice at the general election. We received a significant amount of correspondence referring to these posts – at the time of writing, we had received 38 letters from MPs raising constituents’ concerns, as well as 1,013 emails and 15 telephone calls from members of the public referring to media reports about these claims. We take these reports very seriously, though there is so far a lack of evidence of widespread abuse.

In certain circumstances, it is possible for someone to be lawfully registered to vote in more than one place. In order to do so, the applicant must be resident at each address: residence in the constituency or electoral area is central to the entitlement for any elector to be registered there, and the local ERO must be satisfied that the applicant is resident before determining their application.

There are several groups of people who may be entitled to be registered to vote in more than one place, including students who live at different addresses during term time; people required to work away from their normal home address and who have a second residence for that purpose; and some people who own and occupy a second home.

People who are registered at two addresses are entitled to vote in local government elections at each of those addresses, provided they are not in the same local government area. It is, however, a criminal offence for an elector to cast more than one vote on their own behalf in a UK Parliamentary general election or at a referendum. This offence carries a penalty of an unlimited fine in England and Wales, or a fine not exceeding £5,000 in Scotland.

We have reminded complainants that anyone with evidence that someone may have voted twice should report it to the police force covering either voting area or should contact Crimestoppers, the anonymous crime reporting charity. We have also been providing advice to UK police forces about how to investigate allegations that an individual may have voted twice, including obtaining from the relevant Returning Officers the marked copy of the register. The marked register records those electors who have been issued with and returned a postal ballot pack and those who have been issued with a ballot paper at a polling station.

The dispersed and unconnected nature of the electoral registers across Great Britain means that it is not currently possible to collectively interrogate registers which are maintained by different EROs in order to identify duplicate entries. Providing a mechanism for EROs to compare information about electoral register entries across all 381 registers would help to further improve the accuracy and completeness of electoral registers and could help significantly to address the risk of some electors voting more than once at a relevant election.

Modifying the current framework so that an elector who is lawfully registered in two different electoral areas (and therefore entitled to vote in local elections for the two different local councils) must choose which area they will vote in for UK Parliamentary general elections could also reduce this risk.

Elections and referendums