Summary of what we analyse
Our analysis looks at key data relating to entries on the electoral registers, such as the number of entries, attainers, additions and deletions. It also looks at the results of the annual canvass activities that electoral registration officers at local councils carry out each year.
Between December 2017 and December 2018:
- the total number of UK parliamentary electors decreased by 372,277 to 45,775,758 (a fall of 0.8%), this is compared to an increase in both 2016 and 2017
- the total number of UK local government electors decreased by 146,991 to 47,785,498 (a fall of 0.3%)
- the number of parliamentary and local government electors decreased in England, Scotland and Wales, but increased in Northern Ireland
- the number of British Citizens living overseas registered to vote fell by 81% from 225,472 to 124,190
- although only a small proportion of the total electorate, the number of anonymous electors in England and Wales rose again this year to 2658. This figure has more than doubled since 2010 when it was 1308.
There are 381 electoral registers in the United Kingdom. Electoral Registration Officers (EROs) are required to maintain two electoral registers and statistics are available for these two main groups of electors:
- Parliamentary register – used for Westminster Parliamentary elections
- Local government register – used for Scottish Parliamentary, National Assembly for Wales, Northern Ireland Assembly, local government, European Parliamentary, and Police and Crime Commissioner elections
Details of our analysis
The UK electoral register was at its highest in December 2017 after the 2016 EU referendum and June 2017 General Election with 47.9 million electors on the local government register and 46.1 million on the parliamentary register.
Overall, there is a 0.8% decrease in the number of people on the UK parliamentary register and a decrease of 0.3% on the local government electoral register between December 2017 and December 2018. This follows two years where the registers have increased in size – albeit only a small increase between December 2016 and 2017 when the UK parliamentary register increased by 0.8% and the local government register by 1.2%.
National percentage changes 2017 to 2018
- Parliamentary electors – a decrease of 0.8%
- Local government electors – a decrease of 0.3%
- Parliamentary electors – a decrease of 0.6%
- Local government electors – a decrease of 0.4%
- Parliamentary electors – a decrease of 1.4%
- Local government electors – a decrease of 1.2%
- Parliamentary electors – an increase of 0.5%
- Local government electors – an increase of 0.6%
Generally, changes in the number of registered electors in an area can be explained by the following:
- A change in the size of the population who are entitled to vote. This can happen due to international migration, internal migration, young people becoming old enough to vote and deaths of people currently on the register.
- A change in the proportion of the eligible population who actually register to vote. This could happen as a result of improved canvassing by EROs, national and local ‘voter registration’ public awareness campaigns, a recent election or as a result of increased public interest in the political landscape.
- A change in the definition of eligibility. For example, in 2015 the voting age in Scotland was lowered to allow 16 and 17 year olds to vote in Local Government and Scottish Parliament elections.
Analysis by the ONS on UK population statistics shows that population changes could also be driving the fall in electors this year. There is some evidence to suggest that deaths across the UK have increased over the last few years, and that the number of 18 year olds have also decreased leading to an increase overall in the flow of people coming off the register.
Table 1: Number of electors on the parliamentary and local government registers
Electoral Registers include people who will attain the age of 16 or 18 (dependent on the franchise for an election) during the lifetime of the register (between 2 December 2018 and 30 November 2019). This group is referred to as attainers.
The number of attainers on both parliamentary and local government registers continues to fall. Attainers on the UK parliamentary registers saw a fall of 4.2% with a fall of 3.8% on local government registers.
Only Wales saw a slight increase in attainers with a 1% increase on last year for both registers.
In Scotland, where the voting age for local government and Scottish parliamentary elections is 16, attainers can be added to the local government register at 14. The Scottish local government register therefore shows a much higher number of attainers than the Scottish parliamentary register.
Table 2: Number of attainers on the UK parliamentary and local government registers
|Number of attainers on Parliamentary register||312,990||281,535||344,734||325,851||312,756|
|Number of attainers on local government register||319,577||283,936||334,275||313,785||302,306|
National percentage changes in attainers 2017 to 2018
- Parliamentary register – a decrease of 4.3%
- Local government register – a decrease of 4.1%
- Parliamentary register – a decrease of 5%
- Local government register – a decrease of 2.7%
- Parliamentary register – an increase of 1.2%
- Local government register – an increase of 1%
- Parliamentary register – a decrease of 5.9%
- Local government register – a decrease of 5.9%
Table 3: Number of attainers on the UK parliamentary and local government registers
|Number of attainers on Parliamentary register||257,938||41,296||12,948||574|
|Number of attainers on local government register||268,396||20,232||13,127||574|
In recent years there has been an increase in the number of UK citizens living abroad who registered to vote. This category of electors saw an increase of 144% between December 2015 and December 2016 but had started to decrease by December 2017 (a drop of 17.8% compared to 2016). In December 2018 there was a further fall of 81% with the number of overseas electors now less than half the size it was in December 2016. Overseas electors accounted for 0.3% of the total GB parliamentary electorate.
With no national polls during 2018 it seems likely that, as their 12 month registration period expires, many overseas voters have not re-registered.
Overseas electors: Those who are not resident in the UK, but have been resident here and included in the Electoral Register within a period of 15 years of the qualifying date for the current register (or resident here and too young to be registered at the time of residence). They are registered in the same parliamentary constituency as before they went abroad or, if they were too young to register, in the constituency where their parent or guardian was registered. Overseas electors cannot vote in Local Government elections or Scottish Parliament elections, but are entitled to vote in UK Parliamentary and European Parliamentary elections.
Table 4: Number of overseas electors on the UK parliamentary register
|Number of overseas electors on UK parliamentary register in England, Scotland and Wales||108,241||263,894||255,472||124,190|
Although only a small proportion of the total electorate, the number of anonymous electors in England and Wales rose again this year to 2658. This figure has more than doubled since 2010 when it was 1308.
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 have a code on the electoral register instead of their name and address.
|Number of anonymous electors on Parliamentary register||1308||1861||2225||2268||2525||2658|
Related statistics and data
Visit ONS for related statistics and data.
- UK wide