Electoral Commission
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New report finds electorate grew in 2016, but ambitious reforms are needed to keep pace with change

The size of the local government electorate in the United Kingdom increased by 2.5% on the previous year, reports the Electoral Commission. 47,350,696 voters were registered on 1 December 2016; but the Commission recommends that a more automatic registration process would help to further improve the completeness of the electoral registers.

The parliamentary electorate on the 1 December 2016 had increased by 2.3% on the previous year to 45,766,429.

The 1 December registers represent a snapshot of the registers, taken at a key point in the calendar following voter registration activities conducted each autumn by local authorities. The report found:

  • The local government electorate rose in England, Scotland and Wales. There was a decrease in Northern Ireland, but the size of the register increased again prior to the March Assembly election.
  • The data indicates that the accuracy and completeness of the electoral registers have remained stable since the last assessment published at the end the transition to Individual Electoral Registration (IER) in December 2015.
  • The number of attainers (those who will have reached voting age during the life of the register) on the local government registers has increased by 17.7% in the same period, although the figure for Great Britain is still 30% smaller than the number registered before the start of the transition to IER in February/March 2014.
  • There has been a 144.2% increase of in the number of registered overseas voters to 263,902. The majority of these applications to register were made in advance of the EU Referendum.

Claire Bassett, Chief Executive at the Electoral Commission, said:

“The electoral registers have grown following last year’s major electoral events, but we cannot be complacent as millions remain not correctly registered.

“The current annual canvass in Great Britain is no longer the most effective, or cost efficient, way of maintaining the registers; we will continue to work closely with the UK Government and local authorities to trial new methods that could further modernise the registration process”.

As part of its Modernising Electoral Registration Programme, the Cabinet Office is conducting a number of pilot schemes to test whether the current requirements on how to conduct the canvass in Great Britain could be changed to make the process more efficient and less costly.

Claire Bassett added:

“We believe that more automatic registration processes would greatly improve the system, with voters being added to the register after providing their details to other government services. A key example would be the automatic registration of young people when they are issued with a National Insurance number, helping to address historic under-registration of this age group”.

On-going work to get people registered to vote

Since 1 December, over 1.2 million applications to register to vote have been made across Great Britain, following the significant registration activity by Electoral Registration Officers that continues to take place in advance of elections in May 2017. The number of entries on the electoral register in Northern Ireland increased by 20,606 in the lead up to the Assembly election on 2 March.

The Electoral Commission will run a national voter registration campaign ahead of the polls on 4 May. This will include TV, radio and digital advertising.

The recent report is available on the Commission’s website.

For further information contact:
Lisa Camps in the Electoral Commission press office on 020 7271 0704 or lcamps@electoralcommission.org.uk 
Out of office hours 07789 920 414

Notes to editors

  1. 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, focussing 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.

  1. In Northern Ireland, the size of the electorate on 1 December 2016 was 1,233,926. The size of the electorate at the 2 March Northern Ireland Assembly elections had increased to 1,254,709.
  2. May 2017 will see local government elections in England and Wales, Mayoral elections in England, and Scottish council elections. The registration deadline in England and Wales is Thursday 13 April. In Scotland, the registration deadline is Monday 17 April.
  3. The transition to Individual Electoral Registration started in June 2014 and ended with the publication of the revised registered on 1 December 2015. Previously, one person in every household was responsible for registering everyone else who lives at that address. Under individual electoral registration, each person is now required to register to vote individually, rather than by household.
  4. The Commission would ordinarily publish the outcome of it assessments of Electoral Registration Officers’ (ERO) performance against its performance standards alongside its analysis of the 1 December Register. However, due to challenges encountered with the collection of register data, the Commission has not yet been able to complete its reviews of the progress of individual EROs delivering registration activities in their area. The Commission will publish the conclusions of its assessments of performance in relation to the 2016 canvass after the May 2017 elections.

 

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