Report: Electoral registration at the June 2017 UK general election

What the report includes

A UK Parliamentary general election was held on 8 June 2017. This is the first of the Electoral Commission’s statutory reports on the election, and it focuses on the registration of voters, which is at the heart of a sound and efficient electoral system. It sets out our analysis of key data about electoral registration applications and the  electoral registers, and identifies issues and recommendations for further improving and modernising the system, which we believe to be urgently needed.

Within the UK, the developing devolution settlement means that the Scottish and Welsh Governments have powers to develop policy and legislation for electoral registration for local government elections and Scottish Parliament and National Assembly for Wales elections respectively. We will continue to work closely with all of the UK’s  governments to help support the development of new approaches to improve the accuracy and completeness of electoral registers.

Key data

An estimated 46.8 million people were registered to vote at the June 2017 UK Parliamentary general election, of which 68.8% actually voted.

This was the largest electorate for a UK-wide poll, with approximately 500,000 more electors than at the 2015 election.

More than 2.9 million applications to register to vote were made in Great Britain between the Prime Minister’s announcement on 18 April (that she would ask Parliament to approve a general election) and the deadline for applications on 22 May.

More than 96% of applications were made using the online service, including 612,000 which were submitted on the last day for applications.

Between 18 April and 22 May, over two thirds (69%) of online applications were made by people aged under 34.

Key issues

The online registration service has significantly improved access to elections in Great Britain since it was introduced in June 2014, but it is not yet available for people in Northern Ireland.

Electoral Registration Officers (EROs) have again highlighted the significant administrative and financial impact of processing duplicate applications submitted by people who are already registered to vote. Initial estimates by EROs of the proportion of duplicate applications have ranged from 30% of the total submitted in some areas to 70% in others.

Although people may lawfully be registered to vote in more than one place in certain circumstances, it is troubling that some voters appear to have admitted voting more than once at the general election, which is an offence.

Key areas for further improvement

Online electoral registration should be extended to Northern Ireland as soon as possible.

Urgent steps are needed to reduce both the scale and administrative impact of duplicate registration applications for EROs ahead of future polls.

Tools to prevent double voting at general elections should be explored quickly.

Funding for EROs needs to reflect better the scale of activity required to process electoral registration applications ahead of major polls.

Electoral registration should be more joined-up with other public services, to make registering to vote even simpler for the public and more efficient for EROs. This should include integrating applications into other public service transactions, and better use of national data to identify new electors or home movers.

Automatic registration methods should be explored further, drawing on other countries’ experiences.

Last updated: 13 August 2019
Next review: 18 June 2020