The Impact of Individual Registration on British Elections

The Coalition government proposes to fast-track individual electoral registration (IER) for British elections before the 2015 general election.
The proposals are currently being considered by the Select Committee on Political and Constitutional Reform.

My evidence to the Select Committee on Political and Constitutional Reform is now available online to download here.

The evidence draws from published studies on the effects that different forms of election administration have on voter registration and voter turnout. It also draws from interviews that I have undertaken as part of my ongoing research project on performance management in UK elections. I have interviewed senior election staff such as Returning Officers and Electoral Services Managers from 18 authorities since January 2011.
Levels of registration in the UK have been in decline for some years. My evidence suggests that IER is very likely to accelerate this decline. Although it is not considered in depth in this briefing, it is anticipated that voluntary registration is also likely to reduce the numbers on the electoral register.
IER would be one of the most significant changes to election administration that Britain has seen since becoming a democracy. It will force electoral administrators to undertake significant and costly administrative changes. At a time when a number of other changes are being made to electoral law in the UK, and local government budgets are being cut, there are concerns about the funding elections.
If IER is to be introduced then it is recommended that:
– Other provisions should be put in place to boost voter registration such as enabling voter registration when citizens access other government services. Lessons can be drawn from overseas innovations.
– The long-term funding of election administration is duly considered, given the context of local government cuts.
– Issues of voter accessibility are fully considered.
– The views of citizens towards the registration process should be carefully monitored towards the registration process once during and after the implementation of IER.

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