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Government announcement on electoral registration system could make it harder for some to vote in May 2016 polls

Published: 16 Jul 2015

The Electoral Commission is disappointed at the Government’s announcement that it will make an Order to bring forward the end of the transition to Individual Electoral Registration (IER) to December 2015 instead of leaving the end date as December 2016, as currently set out in law.

The Commission’s analysis of the registers used for the May 2015 elections, presented to Parliament on 18 June, found that there were still 1.9 million entries being retained under the transitional arrangements in place for the move to IER from the previous household system. The Government’s order will bring forward the end of the transition, meaning that any of the retained entries that are still on the register by 1 December 2015 will be removed at that point.

The Commission expects the activity undertaken by Electoral Registration Officers (EROs) that is starting this summer to significantly reduce this figure. However, there will now be some electors taken off the register who will not be able to vote in the important elections scheduled for May 2016 unless they register again.

Jenny Watson, Chair of the Electoral Commission, said:

“The implementation of the new registration system has gone well so far.  But taking into account 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 still recommend that the end of transition should take place in December 2016 as set out in law.”

In response to comments that the transition to IER should end in December 2015 to coincide with the Boundary Review, Jenny Watson said:

"We are glad that the Government shares our ambition that the electoral registers should be as complete and accurate as possible and the work that is taking place now, as part of the annual canvass, will help to achieve this.

“It’s for Parliament to decide when the transition to IER should end. When Parliament made its previous decision, it decided that the transition to IER should end in December 2016 in full knowledge of the forthcoming boundary review.

Background information

Following the Government’s announcement today, an order will need to be made for Parliament to approve bringing forward the end of the transition from the date currently set out in legislation. It is open to Parliament to decide whether to debate the order and to vote on it or whether it is content to let the order simply come into effect.
Starting this summer and through to the early autumn, Electoral Registration Officers (EROs) in every local authority will be conducting their annual canvass of electors. This will involve them sending every household in their area a Household Enquiry Form. The form will confirm who is currently registered at that address and ask for any incorrect or out of date entries to be reported to them and for the details of any new eligible residents at the address to be provided so that they can be invited to register. New residents will be reminded that they can apply to register themselves immediately through the online registration system, or if they prefer, they can complete and return a paper application form. EROs are also expected to make personal visits where they don’t get any response to their mailings.

On 1 December 2015, should Parliament approve the Government’s order, any of the 1.9 million entries on the register that have not been individually registered or already removed through the annual canvass process will be deleted from the register. At that point, any voter that was previously registered under the household registration system but is not registered individually will have to reapply if they want to vote in the elections happening in May 2016.

For further information contact:
Karim Aziz in the Electoral Commission press office on 020 7271 0512 or
Out of office hours 07789 920 414

Notes to editors
1. The Electoral Commission is an independent body set up by the UK Parliament. Our aim is integrity and public confidence in the UK’s democratic process. We regulate party and election finance and set standards for well-run elections and are responsible for the conduct and regulation of referendums held under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act (2000).
2. The Electoral Commission’s analysis of the May 2015 registers found that there are 1.9 million entries that are being retained under the transitional arrangements that are in place for IER from the previous household registration system. For more information, click here
3. 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.
4. Research by the Electoral Commission in 2014 estimated that there were 7.5 million individuals not correctly registered at their current address in Great Britain.