9 February 2012
The government has strengthened proposals for a new individual register of voters to make the scheme simpler for the majority of voters.
Following a period of consultation and pre-legislative scrutiny by the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee, Mark Harper, the Minister for Political and Constitutional Reform, today published updated proposals for Individual Electoral Registration that will improve the accuracy of the electoral register, make it harder to opt out, and make the transition to IER easier for most people.
In order to make it easier for people to stay registered and in a bid to make the electoral register more complete and up to date, the government is proposing to use ‘data matching’ to retain up to two-thirds of those already on the electoral register.
Under the data matching process, an elector’s name and address would be compared against other public databases. If an individual’s details ‘matched’ then they would not have to take any action to remain on the register. This would create a floor in registration rates and allow the government to focus efforts and resources on those electors whose details could not be confirmed and those people who are currently not on the register.
The government has proposed the changes following consultation and pre-legislative scrutiny, and welcomed broad support for the principle of voters joining the electoral register individually rather than on a household basis.
Mark Harper said:
The coalition government has been clear from the start that the outdated system of household registration should end. Instead, voters should be registered individually so that we have a more accurate and complete register. Ultimately, it’s about empowering people to have their say in politics by voting.
I am grateful to the select committee and everyone who has taken part in the consultation process, and I am confident we now have a set of proposals behind which we can all unite.
In order to ensure that the electoral register is as complete and up to date as possible for the transition, the canvass scheduled for autumn 2013 will now take place in spring 2014.
The government believes registering to vote is a civic duty and we do not intend to create new offences to criminalise people who do not apply to register to vote. We will retain the existing offence of refusing to provide information to an electoral registration officer when required to do so. We acknowledge, however, that there is a debate to be had about the suggestion from some respondents that a civil penalty for not returning an IER form should be introduced, and we will work with stakeholders to further inform our thinking.
A command paper in response to the Select Committee’s report has been laid in Parliament today, and the government will introduce a Bill in due course.
Download the full document, including high level implementation timeline.
The government’s original proposals were set out in the Individual Electoral Registration White Paper which was published on 30 June 2011.