Five things that you may (not?) know about voter registration on National Voter Registration Day

Bite the BallotBite The Ballot have made Wednesday 5th February 2014 National Voter Registration Day.

This is a great initiative.  There have been citizen-led projects to increase voter registration in the USA for decades.  The UK is only now catching onto the importance of this topic.

Here are five things you might may not know about voter registration in the UK.

  1. Registration levels are getting lower.  A recent piece of research from the Electoral Commission estimated that only 82% of people were registered in 2011.  This compares with rates of 91-93% in the 1990s.
  2. It is lower amongst some groups.  Research has identified it as being lower amongst the younger, Black and Minority Ethnic communities and those who privately rent.
  3. It is lower than many other countries.  Comparisons with other countries are difficult because of poor data quality.  A high registration rate might also result from duplicates or inaccuracies.  For example, one estimate put the registration in the Czech Republic at over 120%, which suggests other problems with the quality of the register.  But the UK still lags behind many other countries.
  4. Things might get worse.  We will soon be required to register individually and provide a National Insurance number, under changes planned by the government.  My research has suggested that this will reduce registration rates further.  This decline is likely to hit students, the young and geographically mobile the most (see: here for the full piece).
  5. There are things that we can do.  The government has invested resources into a scheme called ‘data-matching’ to register people whose identity can be confirmed using other government records.  This is a really important step in stopping registration rates falling further.  However, more can be done such as thinking about election-day registration and holding days and events to focus the media and public on registration, just like today.

Well done Bite the Ballot.

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