Bill introduced to ensure the ‘missing millions’ are signed up to vote

Josiah Mortimer, former Head of Communications

Posted on the 18th June 2020

An MP has introduced a private member’s bill to close the gaping voter registration gap in the UK.

There are currently millions of people not on the electoral roll, since everyone has to sign up individually. It means that each election there has to be an enormous push among civil society groups to ensure everyone is on the register.

Many countries have a form of automatic registration – which means you don’t have to ‘opt in’ to your right to vote. Not so in the UK. It’s time for change, to bring in those ‘missing millions’ – over 9m of them.

Use the data the government already holds

While few private member’s bills pass, the bill raises a crucial issue: the current system of electoral registration is ‘complicated, fragmentary and, crucially, incomplete’. Why not use the data government already holds, to ensure we’re all able to vote?

Proposing the bill on Tuesday, Judith Cummins MP (Lab) said:

“The right to vote is an essential and fundamental democratic right. Under the current system of individual electoral registration, individuals are solely responsible for registering and ensuring their details are up to date, yet research by the Electoral Commission in 2019 showed that more than 9.4 million people eligible to vote in the UK were either incorrectly registered or not registered at all. It also found that these missing voters were far more likely to be from lower-income backgrounds and black and minority ethnic communities or to be young people or renters.

“In many cases, these are groups that feel increasingly marginalised and disenfranchised from and through the political process. Indeed, a survey of poll workers at recent elections found that the most common problem they encountered was having to turn people away who wrongly believed they were registered. Not only are they then denied their right to vote, but they are not counted for the critically important purpose of determining constituency boundaries…

“The former Political and Constitutional Reform Committee backed automatic voter registration in a 2014 report on voter engagement, while the Electoral Reform Society suggests allowing citizens to register to vote whenever they come into contact with the Government.”

Watch her speech here:

See also: Why it’s time for Automatic Voter Registration

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