Improvement in quality of electoral registers but urgent reform needed to get thousands of people registered to vote

18 Sep 2023 02:26 PM

Substantial improvements have been made to the quality of the electoral registers in Northern Ireland following the last canvass of electors in 2021, according to research published today by the Electoral Commission.

However, up to 300,000 people in Northern Ireland are still either incorrectly registered to vote or missing completely. In particular, young people, private renters, and those who have recently changed address continue to be less likely to be correctly registered to vote.

This means that almost one fifth (17%) of the eligible voting population in Northern Ireland may not be able to vote if an election was called now.

The Electoral Commission is calling on the UK Government to create clear legal gateways for government departments and public bodies to share data on potentially eligible voters Ireland to further improve accuracy and completeness of the electoral registers. Such reform could enable the Chief Electoral Officer to register voters directly or send them invitations to register.

Cahir Hughes, Head of the Electoral Commission in Northern Ireland, said:

“While the increased levels of accuracy and completeness of the electoral registers in Northern Ireland are welcome, almost 300,000 people are still either missing from the registers or not correctly registered to vote. While some may not want to participate in elections, for many people, it is a consequence of an outdated registration system that disproportionally affects private renters and young people.

“Changes to the current electoral registration system are needed. A more automated form of voter registration could see applications made at the same time as other tasks, such as updating the address on your driver’s licence or when enrolling at university.”

In addition to improving the experience for voters, these changes would address the burdens faced by the Chief Electoral Officer, who is currently required to use limited resources and capacity at the most critical time ahead of major elections to manage high numbers of applications to register to vote.

The full report shows the accuracy and completeness of the electoral registers across Northern Ireland, including breakdowns by age and gender. It also sets out a range of options for how specific data sources could be used to improve the system.

For more information contact the Electoral Commission press office on 020 7271 0704, out of office hours 07789 920 414 or (Opens in new window)

Notes to Editors