ERS reveals constituencies with the most potential missing voters – is yours on the list?

Thea Ridley-Castle, Research and Policy Officer

Posted on the 7th February 2024

New analysis by the Electoral Reform Society has revealed that an estimated 7.6 million eligible voters are missing from the electoral register in England and Wales. If moved onto the register this huge figure has the potential to alter the results of any election. But it doesn’t have to be like this – the simplest way to ensure those eligible to vote are enrolled on the register, which does not rely on labour-intensive activist-led electoral registration efforts, would be a move to Automatic Voter Registration (AVR).

Top 5 consts for missing voters %

The top 5 constituencies in the next election with the largest percentage of potential voters missing from the electoral registers are: Cities of London and Westminster (20.3%), Leeds Central and Headingley (20.2%), Bristol Central (19.6%), Sheffield Central (19.5%) and Liverpool Riverside (19.4%). All these constituencies have around a fifth of potential voters missing from the electoral register.

2024 is a big year for elections

In a year where the UK will have Police and Crime Commissioner elections, Local Council elections, Mayoral elections and most likely a General Election; it is imperative that we act now to ensure that as many people as possible are registered to vote in the 2024 elections.

Voter registration efforts are ramping up again in an effort to make sure as many people as possible can have their voices heard in 2024. Many democracy organisations such as Shout Out UK and My Vote  My Voice are doing the work to increase electoral registration to ensure that potential voters, especially in under-represented communities, can have their voices heard and votes counted come election day. A similar effort to increase registration was seen in 2019, with more that 3 million people registering to vote between the 29th Oct 2019 and the 26th Nov 2019, in the same period before the 2017 General Election the figure was just over 2.3 million.

Whilst the effort to register voters was a huge success, this volume of registrations in such a short time period put huge pressure on Electoral Registration Officers to process all these applications. There is also an issue with the number of duplicate registrations in the lead-up to elections, this ranged from 30-70% in 2017. Overall there are an estimated 8.3 to 9.4 million eligible voters not correctly registered and between 4.7 and 5.6 million inaccurate registrations. This equates to around 1 in 10 of current entries being inaccurate.

We shouldn’t have to run voter registration drives

But what if this massive drive in the run up to any UK election wasn’t necessary, what if these organisations that invest incredible amounts of resources into getting people onto the register could focus their efforts on increasing turnout prior to the election; educating young people on the political system, creating resources which increase election accessibility such as easy-read versions of manifestos or polling station guidance; to name a few. The health of our democracy demands a move to AVR.

The UK wouldn’t be alone in moving to AVR, Sweden uses an automatic voter registration model. All persons who qualify to be included on the Swedish Tax Agency’s Population Register 30 days before the election day are automatically registered and mailed a polling card. In 2022, the voting age population of Sweden was 8.1 million, over 7.75 million people were registered to vote, and turnout was 84%. In America, 23 states and the District of Columbia have approved AVR and more states are expected to pass similar provisions.  Since implemented in 2016, Oregon has seen registration rates quadruple at DMV offices. In the first six months after AVR was implemented in Vermont in 2017, registration rates jumped 62 percent when compared to the first half of 2016.

Automatic Voter Registration is tried and tested, it’s time it came to the UK.

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