Press release

Data matching to make individual electoral registration easier

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Preliminary results show three quarters of voters automatically registered for individual electoral registration in trial run.

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The Cabinet Office has today released preliminary results from the “dry run” of the switchover to Individual Electoral Registration (IER). IER will improve the voting system to make it safer and simpler to register to vote.

The Cabinet Office predicted that approximately two-thirds of voters’ records could be matched in this way, but initial results from the dry run, which has been carried out in conjunction with local authorities and the Electoral Commission over the summer, show that closer to 8 in 10 people (78%) will not have to take any action to stay on the register.

Under the new system, most people will not have to do anything in order to remain on the electoral register, as the current register will be matched against other public databases such as that held by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP). However, if a voter’s records do not match (perhaps because they have moved house), they will receive a letter asking them to register using the new individual forms.

The dry run saw local authorities match voters’ records on the Electoral Register against other public databases – next summer, this process will be used to create the new register under the system of individual registration.

Chloe Smith, Minister for Political and Constitutional Reform, said:

A lot of hard work and professionalism by local authorities, from chief executives through to electoral officers and administrators, has gone into making sure the switch to Individual Electoral Registration goes smoothly, and we can see that it is really starting to pay off.

The switchover next year is a big change involving almost everybody in the country, and the Cabinet Office is determined to ensure we have the systems in place and the support available for local authorities to deliver a secure and efficient electoral registration system.

The move to individual registration will mean a safe, secure electoral register, which is fit for the 21st century. No more outmoded registration by the ‘head of the household’, a concept which many people these days wouldn’t even recognise. It will be accompanied by online registration, which is no less than people expect in the internet age. The hard work now will be well worth it to create a register in which we can all have confidence.

Peter Wardle, Chief Executive at the Electoral Commission, said:

Individual Electoral Registration will be the biggest change to the electoral registration system in over 80 years. It needs to be implemented carefully and in a way which maximises both accuracy and completeness of the electoral registers – and which puts the voter first.

The indicative results from the ‘dry run’ are important – individual EROs will need to analyse the results in their areas carefully, to inform their plans for implementing IER. This will be even more important in those areas where the match rates are significantly lower than the 78% average. We have already produced a range of resources to help Electoral Registration Officers and their teams plan for the change.

This preliminary analysis will be followed in the coming weeks by formal evaluations of the dry run by both the Cabinet Office and the Electoral Commission.

Notes to editors

Chloe Smith is today speaking to electoral administrators at a national seminar on Individual Electoral Administration in Birmingham.

Individual Electoral Registration

Initial analysis of the confirmation dry run results show an average match rate of 78% nationwide, with a range between 47% and 87%. These figures should be treated as indicative and final figures may see the match rates change slightly.

As well as the national data matching exercise, local authorities have also been matching the Electoral Register against their locally-held databases. Local data matching reports analysed so far show that local data matching can add between 0.2% and 12% to the match rate. The average increase to the match rate following local data matching was 6%. We expect to receive a much larger number of these reports in the coming weeks and will therefore gain a clearer insight into local matching, but the current data shows the potential it offers to confirm more electors.

The dry run has been completed in good time for the transition to Individual Electoral Registration (IER), which will go live in England and Wales in June 2014, and in Scotland following the referendum on independence in September 2014. The canvass that will begin at the end of 2013 is the last before the transition to the new system of registering to vote. Under the new system, instead of receiving a household registration form, everyone will have to take responsibility to register themselves individually, including providing identification information such as their National Insurance number.

For the first time people will also be able to register online. IER will improve the voting system to make it safer and simpler to register to vote. Preparations for the transition are already well under way, and have remained on budget and on track for the changeover next year. Most people - we now expect around three-quarters - will not have to do anything in order to remain on the electoral register when the changeover takes place, as the current register will be matched against other public databases such as that held by the DWP. If your records do not match, you will receive a letter asking you to register using the new individual forms.

There are 2 major benefits to the system we are introducing: because we will ask for identifying information such as date of birth and National Insurance number, we can verify that everyone on the register is who they say they are. This is vital as we create a register in which everyone can be fully confident, one which reduces the risk of fraud and duplication, eradicating redundant entries.

The second benefit of IER is that, because we are targeting people individually, we can bring electoral registration into the modern age. Some people, such as those in shared housing and students who move regularly, might not even realise a form has been delivered to their home.

IER will give us the opportunity to make sure the register has as many eligible people as possible on it – it will be more accurate than ever, and we can be sure every individual who is entitled to vote can do so.

Photo credit: PA

Published 11 September 2013