Electoral registration in Great Britain in 2022

Overview

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.

Summary

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

Download the electoral registration data 2020-2022

Page history

First published:

Last updated: 30 March 2023