The debate about the UK government’s plans to introduce individual electoral registration is heating up. Nick Clegg has suggested that the government may now not introduce voluntary registration.
One key effect that individual registration might have is an increased administrative burden on local authorities, but this is not been widely discussed. Individual registration is an enormous change. Councils will have to target individuals rather than households. They will have to process many more forms. My research has suggested that some elections managers expect that they would need their team to double in size. Local government budgets are not ring-fenced for elections and we should expect them to try to make savings by cutting back on other aspects of work on elections e.g. public awareness and less elaborate canvassing. In short, there will be a ‘spillover’ effect.
The government has proposed funding the changes in the short-term, but the long-term financing of elections is also vitally important.