Between July and October this year, all 380 local authorities and joint valuation boards in England, Scotland and Wales undertook a dry run of the ‘data matching’ process, a key plank of the switch to individual registration. The test involved matching the records of around 46 million people on the electoral register against DWP data, using the process, IT and people who will do it for real next year. If the records on the register and the DWP database match, in 2014 those electors will remain registered to vote without having to take any action.
The final analysis of these data show that 78% of people across the country will be matched in this way – this compares to the previous predictions by the Cabinet Office of around two-thirds.
In the next few days, the Cabinet Office will inform local authorities of the funding they have been allocated for the switch to individual registration.
Greg Clark, Minister for Cities and the Constitution, said:
These excellent results show that by embracing modern technology we can transform the way people register to vote to make the whole process smooth and painless.
We are on track to modernise electoral registration to increase public confidence in our elections, which is at the heart of our democracy.
This trial run is a great example of government working effectively with local authorities and stakeholders including the Electoral Commission.
For the minority of people whose records do not match, registering will be quick and easy and it will be possible to register online for the first time. Any new applications made after the transition has begun must include the applicant’s date of birth and National Insurance number so that their identity can be verified through automated checks. This will increase the accuracy and integrity of the register. People will be required to register to vote individually, replacing the existing outdated system where a head of household submits an application for registration.
The transition to Individual Electoral Registration is scheduled to begin in 2014 in England, Wales and Scotland, although this timing will be confirmed later this year. In Scotland, the transition will be delayed until after the Independence Referendum on 18 September so that these two important events do not overlap.
Background on Individual Electoral Registration
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 summer 2014, and in Scotland following the referendum on independence in September 2014. The canvass 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 Department of Work and Pensions. If your records do not match, you will receive a letter asking you to register using the new individual forms.
There are two 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.