Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee publish welcome electoral registration report

Author:
Thea Ridley-Castle, Research and Policy Officer

Posted on the 26th March 2024

Last week, the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee published a new report on Electoral Registration. Even though electoral registration is mandatory, millions of people are missing from the electoral register, and the ERS has long campaigned to lower this first barrier to voting. It is unacceptable that millions of eligible voters are missing from the electoral rolls.

We submitted evidence to the Committee and were pleased to see that they supported nearly all our recommendations.

The report recommends the following:

A move to Automatic Voter Registration (AVR) and better data sharing

Moving house is a big deal and registering to vote can often be a low priority. Many people may only realise they didn’t register when it is too late.

The Committee called for a system of automated voter registration and asked for The Electoral Commission to complete “a detailed plan including milestones and dates for moving towards implementing automated voter registration with a clear outline of how people can protect their data privacy.”

Electoral Registration Officers (EROs) also need a better system for updating records. The Committee suggested data sharing between the DVLA, DWP, and HM Passport Office to allow EROs to use that data fully. The Committee also highlighted the need to ascertain whether people could be added to the electoral register when they interact with these agencies.

A single electoral register

The Committee also called on the Government to look into creating a single national electoral register for England. A single register would address the issue of duplicates and registration being lost when moving house.

Better education and signposting for 16-year-olds

While you can’t vote in a general election until you are 18, you can register in advance as an ‘attainer’ from 16. To increase the number who register from 16, the Committee recommended that when national insurance numbers are issued, they should include signposting to ways to register to vote.

Places of learning should also be supported in their efforts to “better educate young people about the importance of voting and to encourage them to register to vote”.

Reviewing voter ID

The Committee had various common-sense recommendations surrounding voter ID including:

  • The Electoral Commission should properly assess the impact of voter ID before the next general election.
  • The Government should work with specific groups, such as disabled voters and those with learning disabilities, to raise awareness of the voter ID requirements.
  • The ID list should be broadened to include other forms of ID such as police warrant cards, emergency services passes and non-London travel passes.
  • Central and local government and the Electoral Commission need to work together to ensure that the Voter Authority Certificate is known about and accessed by all those that need it.

This is the fourth parliamentary committee that has recognised the problems with voter ID. The government needs to act on these recommendations and create a system that works for voters not against them.

Reducing pressure on electoral administrators

The Committee acknowledged the evidence from the Association of Election Administrators and highlighted the “insufficient practical detail” given to help prepare for the changes the Elections Act 2022 brought in. They also recommended that the burden on local authorities and administrators due to the Elections Act 2022 should be assessed by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. If the findings indicate further funding is required, “this funding should be provided as a matter of urgency”.

Consolidating Electoral Law

At present “electoral processes and administration are more costly, burdensome and inefficient than they should be”. The Committee urged the Government to prioritise time and resources to “update, consolidate and simplify electoral law for the 21st century” within a reasonable timeline.

We support the committee’s conclusions that our electoral registration system desperately needs updating.

Not only are voters being let down by an unworkable and out of date registration system, they are also facing additional hurdles in the unnecessary and damaging voter ID scheme.  The government should be focusing on increasing the amount of people who vote, not throwing up extra hurdles.

Join the Electoral Reform Society

We could submit in-depth evidence to this committee thanks to the continued support of ERS members, who pay a small amount each month to contribute to our activities. Could you join them?

Join the ERS today

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