4 Canvass arrangements for 2014|
51. The Government has proposed arrangements for
the transition from the current system of registration to the
new one, rather than going for a 'big bang'. This should help
to moderate the impact of the change, but the detail of these
transitional arrangements has given rise to some concern. Most
of this concern has focussed on the Government's proposal not
to hold a household canvass under the current system in 2014.
52. The White Paper explains that the Government
proposes not to hold a full household canvass in 2014 because
"as well as being more expensive ... a canvass followed by
invitation risks confusing people who may not respond to an IER
invitation having already responded to a canvass, believing that
they have done enough to register".
The Minister told us that the transition arrangements, including
no annual household canvass in 2014, were necessary as a full
household canvass followed by an invitation for electors to register
individually could be "confusing"
The very clear feedback we had from electoral
administrators who would have to do that work was that simply
would not be a very good thing to do. We would end up risking
confusing people and end up with lots of people who had sent out
the household form, not responding to the individual form, because
they thought they had done what they needed to do.
He told us that the Government's proposal for a 'modified'
canvass was preferable, in which a written invitation to register
could be combined with doorstep canvassing.
53. The proposal to not hold a household canvass
in 2014 has raised significant concern among our witnesses, both
that large numbers of people will be missed in the initial rounds
of invitations to individuals to register under the new system
because they have moved, and that the registers in use at the
2015 general election will be significantly inaccurate. For the
Electoral Commission, having an annual household canvass in 2014
is "a key priority".
Jenny Watson, the Chair of the Electoral Commission, explained
We know there are around 5 million changes to
the register in any 12-month period and the majority of those
will be due to people moving house. If we think about the period
between the 2013 register and the 2014 register, when individual
electoral registration and transition starts, we know that that
will already have decayed in accuracy by around 5 to 6 percentage
points. That means around 2 million to 3 million people will probably
have moved in that time. What that does not do is address the
variability of that figure throughout the country.
54. Her colleague Andrew Scallan added
It is crucial that when you embark on this exercise
of individual registration ... you start off with a baseline that
is as accurate as possible. Having the canvass in 2014, at whatever
time precisely in 2014, is demonstrably the best way of establishing
the best baseline information.
55. Peter Wardle explained that on the Government's
the June 2014 register, the one that will be
used as the basis for the 2014 write-out, is likely to contain
inaccuracies. Approximately 20% of people eligible to re-register
under IER may not be invited in that invitation process. That
is a very large number of electors to set against the potential
savings of not carrying out an annual canvass, and that is what
we are concerned about.
56. High numbers of home movers are a particular
feature in urban areas. Julian Bassham from Southwark told us
that without an annual canvass in 2014, "we are missing 70%
to 90% of movers not joining the electoral roll. They wait until
the annual canvass ... coupled with a high population churn ...
around 30% to 40%we could well be looking at a significant
under-representation on the register of the eligible population
57. We would be greatly troubled if, as the Electoral
Commission warns, "as many as 2-3 million people across Great
Britain could be no longer resident at the address recorded on
the December 2013 electoral registers, and would therefore not
receive an IER form in July 2014".
58. People who are on the electoral register following
a response to the household canvass in 2013 will, on the Government's
proposals, remain on the register until after the general election
in May 2015. This is a sensible way of ensuring that people have
plenty of time to register individually and do not find themselves
accidentally deprived of their right to vote in 2015. Coupled
with the absence of a household canvass in 2014, however, these
carry-forward proposals are likely to mean that millions of electors
will be registered in the wrong place for the 2015 General Election.
59. We recommend that the Government take steps
to ensure that the electoral registers used for identifying individuals
in the initial round of invitations to register under IER, as
well as those used for the 2015 general election, are as accurate
and complete as possible. We have heard serious concerns that
the Government's current proposals will miss an unacceptably large
number of potential electors, and calls from many of our witnesses
for a full household canvass in 2014 to address this problem.
We believe, given the unique circumstances of the change to IER,
that the Government should reconsider its decision not to hold
a full household canvass in 2014.
60. If the Government is determined not to hold a
full household canvass in 2014, there may be proportionate alternatives
that would achieve the Government's goal of saving money, without
the risk of disenfranchising large numbers of people. One alternative
to holding a full annual household canvass in 2014 would be to
identify those parts of the country with a significant level of
annual turnover on the electoral register, and to provide for
something like the usual annual household canvass to take place
in 2014 just in those areas. For this to happen, some parts
of the country will need more funding than others. We recommend
that the Government confirm that this is its intention.
50 Cm 8108, paras 61-62 Back
Cm 8108, para 67 Back
Q 264 Back
Q 264 Back
Q 189 Back
Q 82 Back
Ev 102 Back