Proposals to reform the annual electoral registration canvass welcomed by Electoral Commission

Summary

UK Government proposals for reforming the annual electoral registration canvass have been welcomed by the Electoral Commission in its statutory report on the draft legislation.

The canvass reform proposals, which are due to come into effect for 2020, will streamline the audit of electoral registers which Electoral Registration Officers (EROs) are required to do every year. EROs will be able to access national-level data about their local population that will help them identify and target households where people are likely to have moved and may not be correctly registered to vote.

Quote

Ailsa Irvine, Director of Electoral Administration and Guidance at the Electoral Commission, said:

Reform of the annual canvass is overdue. The current inflexible, largely paper based approach is inefficient and costly. We welcome the proposals to reform this process as they will allow Electoral Registration Officers to prioritise their limited resources on addresses where there has been change. The UK’s governments need to move quickly to ensure the reforms are implemented in good time for the start of the canvass in summer 2020. We look forward to supporting this work, and will be developing guidance for EROs on the new canvass process.

Continued

The Commission has recommended that the legislation that will enable the proposed changes should be laid for approval by parliaments and in place by no later than December 2019. EROs and their teams must have time to plan effectively for the changes and ensure they have the skills and capacity to deliver them.

In addition to supporting the reform of the annual canvass, the Commission is looking beyond this to further reforms which could make it easier for both an individual who wants to register to vote and for EROs themselves. For example, registration could be more widely integrated into other public service transactions, and better use could be made of data to compile and maintain electoral registers, as is done in other countries.

The Commission has carried out feasibility studies to show how these changes could be implemented in the UK and will publish these in the summer.

In addition, the latest accuracy and completeness study of the electoral registers will be published in the autumn, providing an up-to-date picture of under-registration in Great Britain.

Ends

For more information contact the Electoral Commission press office on 020 7271 0704, out of office hours 07789 920 414 or press@electoralcommission.org.uk.

The Electoral Commission’s report on the UK Government’s draft regulations for canvass reform can be found on the Commission’s website.

Notes to editors

  • The Electoral Commission is the independent body which oversees elections and regulates political finance in the UK. We work to promote public confidence in the democratic process and ensure its integrity by:
    • enabling the delivery of free and fair elections and referendums, focusing on the needs of electors and addressing the changing environment to ensure every vote remains secure and accessible
    • regulating political finance – taking proactive steps to increase transparency, ensure compliance and pursue breaches
    • using our expertise to make and advocate for changes to our democracy,
    • aiming to improve fairness, transparency and efficiency

    The Commission was set up in 2000 and reports to the UK and Scottish Parliaments.

  • The Electoral Commission has a statutory obligation to respond to the UK Government’s consultation of its draft legalisation for reforming the annual canvass under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000.
  • The Scottish Government and the Welsh Government are bringing forward separate regulations to reform the annual canvass for the local government registers in Scotland and Wales.
  • Under the current system EROs are required to survey all households within their council area to check their electoral register is up-to-date. If no response is received, EROs are required to send further reminders and make personal visits, even if there have been no household changes. The Commission has previously highlighted its concern that this process is not sustainable.