Electoral registration in Great Britain in 2022


This report looks at how the 2022 canvass in Great Britain was run and considers how the electoral registers have been affected by the canvass reforms introduced in 2020.


In 2020, new processes were introduced to make the annual canvass more efficient. These processes involve comparing the electoral registers with other public datasets so that Electoral Registration Officers (EROs) can identify households where residents’ details are most likely to have changed. EROs can then target their resources at these households (by assigning them to different ‘routes’ for follow up contacts). The 2022 canvass was the third using this approach.

This analysis sets out our latest insight into the impact that the canvass reforms are having on the quality of the electoral registers. However, we cannot draw firm conclusions on the basis of this analysis alone. In September 2023, we will publish the findings from our next study into the accuracy and completeness of the registers. This research involves interviewing several thousand households across the UK and comparing their current details with their entries on the electoral register. It will allow us to produce reliable estimates of the quality of the registers and thereby to robustly evaluate the impact that the canvass reforms have had. The results of our previous studies are available here. 

In the meantime, our analysis of data relating to the 2022 canvass provides a snapshot of performance in a specific year. The data suggests that the new processes may not be sufficient to ensure that the registers keep pace with population movement and we can see clear patterns emerging:

  • Some households continue to be allocated to the ‘wrong’ route due to imperfections in the data matching process and/or the lag between matching and canvassing. Almost a fifth of responses from households allocated to Route 1 (where the data matching process suggested there had been no change in household composition) reported significant changes to electors’ details.
  • The response rate among Route 2 households suggests that necessary changes to electors’ details may not be reflected on the registers. One third of Route 2 households (~2.4 million) did not respond to the canvass despite the fact that the data matching process suggested there had been a change in household composition.
  • The number of registered attainers (i.e. those who will soon reach voting age) continues to fall, possibly as a consequence of the reduction in contact that EROs now make with Route 1 households. The decline in the number of registered attainers began after the introduction of individual electoral registration (IER) in 2014. It continued in 2022, although the number fell at a much lower rate than in 2021 (-0.23% vs. -28.70%).

While we know that new registration applications are most readily driven by large scale electoral events, it is nevertheless important that the canvass and other year-round registration activity supports accurate and complete registers. This can help to reduce the large volumes of registration applications received immediately in advance of major polls, when EROs’ staff capacity is already stretched.

To help ensure that all eligible voters can have their say at elections, the electoral registration system in Great Britain should be further modernised. This modernisation should involve making better use of public data, including data from other government services, so that registration is as easy as possible for voters.

Over 2023, we will continue to use the ERO performance standards framework to build on the work we have carried out with EROs in the past two years. We will support EROs to further develop and use key performance indicators to help them better understand and report on the impact of their activity. We will also once again ask EROs to complete a survey during the 2023 canvass, to help us build a picture of how the canvass is progressing, as well as supporting our engagement with individual EROs and their teams.

Other register statistics

In Scotland and Wales, 16 and 17 year-olds can vote in Scottish Parliament, Senedd and local council elections. This change was introduced in 2015 in Scotland and 2020 in Wales.

In Scotland, 76,955 16 and 17 year-olds were registered on the local government registers at the conclusion of the 2022 canvass (see Table 4). This represents a -1.3% decrease on 2021. Taken with NRS population estimates, this indicates that roughly two thirds of 16 and 17 year-olds in Scotland are included on the local government registers.1

EROs across Scotland continue to engage with 16 and 17 year-olds using a variety of methods including direct mailing, phone/text communications, contact with schools and universities, issuing press releases, social media activity, distributing newsletters, and local advertising, as well as local activity with partner organisations.

Case study – Lothian Valuation Joint Board

Lothian Valuation Joint Board – covering the City of Edinburgh, East Lothian, Midlothian and West Lothian Council areas – uses a combination of approaches to encourage 16 and 17 year-olds to register, including direct emails, attending events and data mining. In the days after they sent a targeted email, there was a spike in registration applications. Across four events attended, they reported directly registering 357 students and engaging with a great deal more. Data mining school lists and subsequent follow up activities were attributable to a 6.6% increase in registered school pupils over the age of 16 (equal to approximately 1,075 applications), and an overall increase of 18.9% for school pupils over the age of 14 (approximately 5,754 applications).

Table 4. Number of 16 and 17 year-olds on the local government registers in Scotland 2015-22

Year 16 and 17 year-olds
2015 48,962
2016 79,621
2017 83,536
2018 78,383
2019 73,777
2020 73,272
2021 77,958
2022 76,955

In Wales, 36,722 16 and 17 year-olds were on the local government registers on 1 December 2022. This represents a 10.5% increase on 2021, meaning the rate of growth in the number of registered 16 and 17 year-olds has slowed since the previous canvass, which saw a 115.1% increase relative to 2020. Taken with the ONS mid-year population estimates for 2021, our canvass data suggests that just over half of 16 and 17 year-olds in Wales are currently included on the local government registers.2

Across Wales, EROs carried out a range of activity to encourage registration amongst 16 and 17 year-olds. Using grant funding from Welsh Government, many authorities appointed temporary public engagement officers and there appears to have been an increase in the range of engagement that was undertaken in those areas. The strongly held opinion of the local authorities that we talked to was that this resource should continue to be made available to ensure that the foundations already laid are built upon and this important work can continue.

In addition to more standard engagement activities such as direct mailing, phone/text communications, contact with schools, press releases, newsletters and social media, some authorities undertook additional activities such as:

  • creating website banners and TikTok videos to share with schools
  • working with youth councils and youth partnership groups 
  • sending 16th birthday cards
  • advertising in bus shelters
  • pop-up sessions in schools
  • teacher training sessions using Electoral Commission resources

Case study – Torfaen County Borough Council

Alongside developing an advertising campaign targeted at 16-17 year olds, Torfaen Council undertook several activities to engage with young people in the area. This included recording several videos with school pupils on how to vote and what the local council does, working with schools to promote registration via pupil post and parent portals, and running assemblies and mock elections. This activity was led by the Engagement and Electoral Participation Officer. Torfaen saw a 9% increase in registration amongst 16-17 year olds. 

A UK citizen living abroad who has been registered to vote in the UK in the past 15 years can apply to be an overseas voter. These registrations currently need to be renewed annually. The total number of overseas electors on the 2022 registers in Great Britain was 79,665 (Table 5). 

Table 5. Number of overseas electors on the parliamentary registers in Great Britain 2015-22

Area 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
England 97,572 241,097 205,687 113,833 185,513 170,196 94,908 73,407
Scotland 7,729 15,230 12,790 6,679 11,587 9,617 6,799 4,259
Wales 2,940 7,567 6,995 3,678 6,969 5,169 2,958 1,999
Great Britain 108,241 263,894 225,472 124,190 204,069 184,982 104,665 79,665

This is a decrease of -23.9% since the publication of the registers in 2021. It marks a continuation in the decline of registered overseas electors that has been ongoing since 2019. This decline is likely a consequence of the fact that there has not been an election in which overseas electors can vote since the 2019 UK parliamentary general election.

The Elections Act 2022 extends the number of overseas citizens who will be eligible to register and vote, and also changes the requirement to renew registration annually to every three years. The extension of eligibility could result in a high volume of applications close to the next UK parliamentary general election, which EROs will need to be prepared to manage. We will carry out targeted support and engagement activities with EROs ahead of the next UK parliamentary general election.

The number of anonymous electoral register entries on the parliamentary registers in Great Britain decreased from 3,097 in 2021 to 2,842 in 2022 (Table 6).

Anonymous registration is available for people meeting certain requirements, whose safety, or the safety of someone in the same household, is at risk. People registered anonymously appear on the electoral register without their name and address.

Table 6. Number of anonymous electors on the parliamentary registers in Great Britain 2015-22

Area 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
England 2,151 2,194 2,440 2,550 3,214 3,064 2,788 2,539
Scotland 111 117 116 130 194 196 187 191
Wales 74 74 85 108 138 114 122 112
Great Britain 2,336 2,385 2,641 2,788 3,546 3,374 3,097 2,842


Download the electoral registration data 2020-2022

Page history

First published:

Last updated: 30 March 2023