The government is to launch pilot exercises across the country aimed at improving rates of electoral registration and tackling electoral fraud. Selected local authorities will take part in 22 separate pilots for making the electoral register more accurate and complete, with the scheme to be rolled out across the country if successful.
The pilots, to be debated in the Commons today [Monday 23 May], will enable Electoral Registration Officers (EROs) to match names and addresses on their electoral register with names and addresses on existing public authority databases. Where names are found to be missing from the electoral register, EROs will then offer individuals the opportunity to add their names. At the same time, if concerns are raised about a name being on the register because of fraud or error, the ERO will be able to investigate whether or not they are legitimate.
Mark Harper, Minister for Political and Constitutional Reform, said:
I’m grateful to all of the local authorities who’ve agreed to take part in these pilots. We want to make sure the electoral register is more accurate and complete, both by making sure everyone who is eligible to register has the full opportunity to do so but also by tackling fraud and making sure names that shouldn’t be there are removed.
Registration rates in this country already compare favourably with other democracies, but there is room for improvement. We want to address the issue of under-representation and make sure that everyone eligible to vote is given the opportunity to do so.
At the same time, we need to ensure we’re also providing an extra safeguard against false and inaccurate registrations. These pilots will test whether or not comparing existing data sets is an effective way of achieving this.
EROs will have access to existing databases held by public authorities and will be able to compare names, dates of birth and addresses for the purposes of the pilot only. No new databases will be created and robust arrangements will be put in place to ensure that all data is stored and handled securely.
The pilots are part of the Government’s plan to bring in individual registration from 2014, replacing the current system of household registration in which one person at each address is responsible for providing the names of voters who live there. The move to individual electoral registration will make the register less vulnerable to fraud.