We need a registration revolution in the UK, to ensure that everyone can use their democratic right. And there is plenty that can be done.
We want to see the government working closely with electoral registration officers, charities, campaigners, regulators and others to ensure every last step is taken to maximise voter registration in the UK. And we need moves towards automatic voter registration, so that whenever you are in contact with government you can sign up.
What’s the issue?
The move away from household registration to Individual Electoral Registration (IER) in 2014 was a huge change to the way we do elections. Now we need to take the next step. Individual Electoral Registration helps the accuracy of the register and to counter fraud. But with many people dropping off the register as a result, we need solutions to do IER in the right way.
The Missing Millions
Moving house is a big deal and registering to vote can often be a low priority. Whereas under household registration, one resident could sign everyone up to vote, under IER everyone has to register individually. Many people may only realise they didn’t get around to registering at election time, when it is already too late.
The Electoral Commission’s analysis shows that “areas with a high concentration of certain demographics – students, private renters and especially young adults” are particularly in danger of having low registration numbers.
The new 2022 boundaries (five years on from the 2017 General Election) are going to be based on the Individual Registration electoral roll from December 2015 – years out of date. The Electoral Commission recommended using a more up to date register and a longer changeover to the new system, but the government rejected their advice. Since December 2015 millions of people have joined the register, but none of them will be taken in to account for the new boundaries.
Why does it matter? Unrepresentative electoral registers will lead to unrepresentative constituencies. Under the current proposals urban and socially deprived areas where registration is low are likely to have fewer MPs per person than the affluent areas where registration is high. This means that areas where people are more likely to go to their MP for help with housing, debt or immigration could end up with less representation.
A registration revolution
We want to see reforms to ensure as many people are signed up to vote as possible:
- A ‘motor voter’ law so citizens can register to vote whenever they are in contact with government – from getting a driving license to sorting out their benefits or pension
- Trialling same-day registration so you can sign up on election day. After all, the heat of an election campaign is when people get most interested in politics.
- An online service to find out if you are registered
- Drawing boundaries on the basis of the total population of eligible voters – rather than just those who are already signed up