After nearly a hundred years without serious modification, the Victorian system of electoral registration in Britain was radically reformed by the Coalition government from 2014, as a new online system of electoral registration was introduced. Not only that, registration was switched to be on an individual basis. And you had to provide your national insurance number which would be checked against government records before you were registered to vote.
This was a major step forward in some respects, as I write in a forthcoming book, but also one that had many side effects:
- Costs increases for electoral officials
- The completeness of the electoral register was hit, especially in London and amongst young people
- Many electoral officials, with a new system in place, faces considerable workplace stress
I have long argued that further reforms are needed. And the good news is that some were set out by Westminster, Welsh and Scottish government in a consultation document. In short, this promises a system where many people won’t have to re-register each year if their name is verifiable on other existing government records. Electoral administrators time and resource can therefore be spent chasing those who are missing from the register. Win-win.
For this reason, the submission from the APPG on Democratic Participation was in support of many of the proposed reforms, which have been piloted and evaluated by the Electoral Commission. But there is still an opportunity here to go further. Why canvass some groups if we know who they are and have their details already? Why not just register them? Alistair Clark and I have consistently shown that many people are turned away from the polls because of registration issues.
There is therefore a chance for such provisions to be inserted into the proposed legislation. Have a read of the APPG submission here.
Photo credit: Descrier