1 February 2013
The Electoral Registration and Administration Act has received Royal Assent. The Act allows Individual Electoral Registration to be introduced in 2014 to help tackle electoral fraud and paves the way for online registration from 2014, which will make it more easier and more convenient for individuals to ensure they are registered to vote.
Chloe Smith, Minister for Political and Constitutional Reform, said:
I want Britain to be a fairer, stronger, more democratic society. Making it easier to register to vote is crucial to a free and fair society. We have to get it right, and we have to make it as difficult as possible for people to commit fraud.
The Electoral Registration and Administration Act provides the legal framework for a fair, robust and efficient electoral system, fit to face the challenges of the 21st century. The government, the Electoral Commission and local electoral services teams all still have a great deal of work to do, but I am delighted that we are still firmly on target to introduce Individual Electoral Registration in the summer of 2014.
As well as preparation for individual electoral registration, there are provisions in the Act to increase voter participation, further improve the integrity of the electoral system and ensure that the process underpinning elections is more robust. The electoral timetable for UK Parliamentary General Elections will be extended, benefiting postal voters, in particular those overseas and service personnel based abroad, by giving them more time to return their postal vote.
Measures added to the Act during its passage through Parliament include the moving the next review of constituency boundaries from 2013 to 2018, and an amendment to ensure electors queuing at a polling station when it closes at 10pm can exercise their right to vote.
Notes to editors
- The Electoral Registration and Administration Act can be obtained from the Stationery Office.
- New system of individual electoral registration:
Until individual registration begins in summer 2014, the current system will continue, under which the head of a household registers electors who live at the same address. From next summer, electors will register separately, each providing their own unique identifiers, such as National Insurance number and date of birth, so their information can be verified.
Around two-thirds of the public will not have to take any action to stay on the electoral register because those on the register in 2014 will be transferred to the new system automatically.
Where someone’s details cannot be confirmed, which is expected to be around a third of the electorate, and where people are unregistered or move house after the final household canvass, people will be invited and reminded to register under the new system. Even if someone on the register is not captured by the automatic data matching process and fails to register individually, their details will be carried forward from the current register for at least a year after the introduction of the new system in summer 2014 and they will be able to vote in the 2015 General Election.
The government believes that it is a civic duty to register to vote, and to support registration officers in their duties a small civil penalty, akin to a parking fine, is being introduced which could only be applied to those who refuse repeated invitations to register. There will also be safeguards to ensure that EROs take specific steps to encourage an application. Under the current system of registering to vote, failure to provide information to an Electoral Registration Officer (ERO) is a criminal offence punishable by a £1,000 fine, leaving a criminal record. This will be maintained under the new system for information about households, to help ensure that the inaction of some does not lead to others being disenfranchised.