Individual Electoral Registration and Electoral Administration - Political and Constitutional Reform Committee Contents

Conclusions and recommendations


1.  We welcome the fact that these proposals have been published for pre-legislative scrutiny by us, as well as for wider consultation. (Paragraph 6)

Registration as personal choice

2.  We welcome the Government's acknowledgment that care needs to be taken not to make it too easy for people to opt out from what is still regarded as a public duty, even under the Government's current proposal that failure to register to vote should not be a criminal offence. We urge the Government to take the necessary steps in this direction in the Bill. (Paragraph 23)

3.  We recommend that it should initially be an offence to fail to complete a voter registration form when asked to do so by the relevant electoral registration officer. This should be reviewed after five years of operation of the new system of individual registration, by which time registration levels may be high enough and a culture of individual registration sufficiently embedded for compulsion no longer to be necessary. (Paragraph 28)

Constituency boundaries

4.  For the next parliamentary constituency boundary reviews to be fair and representative, electoral registers across the country need to be at least as complete—and as consistently complete—as they are now. The Government needs to ensure that its proposals will achieve this end. (Paragraph 32)

5.  There is a risk that the electoral registers in December 2015 will be particularly varied in their levels of completeness: this matters because they will be used under current legislation as the basis for the next boundary review. We recommend using instead the registers as they stood on or before general election day in May 2015. (Paragraph 33)

Groups at most risk of failing to register

6.  We recommend that the Electoral Commission's public information campaign around the launch of individual registration include as an important element strands aimed at encouraging those in groups currently under-represented on the electoral rolls to register to vote. (Paragraph 36)

7.  There may be a small number of people who neither have the required documentation nor are able to travel to an office to attest to their identity. We recommend that the Government ensure that people in this situation are not deprived of their right to vote. (Paragraph 39)

Improving registration rates

8.  We recommend that the edited register should be abolished. (Paragraph 43)

Identifying duplicate entries

9.  We recommend that the Government explore ways of improving the sharing of information between local authorities, especially where potential electors move house. (Paragraph 49)

Canvass arrangements for 2014

10.  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. (Paragraph 59)

11.  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. (Paragraph 60)

Postal and proxy voting

12.  We recommend that the Government look closely at applying the same carry-forward arrangements for the 2015 General Election to postal and proxy registrations as to other registrations, to avoid inadvertently disenfranchising vulnerable electors. (Paragraph 66)

13.  We recommend that the Government take the opportunity provided by the introduction of individual registration to consider dropping the requirement of a signature as a personal identifier to cast a postal vote once IER is well-established. This is because of the unreliability of the signature as a personal identifier, and because those electors wishing to cast a postal vote under IER will already have had their identity verified by other means. (Paragraph 69)


14.  We recommend that the Government publish the information, including draft secondary legislation that electoral administrators need to deliver the necessary infrastructure for individual registration, as soon as possible after the Individual Electoral Registration Bill is introduced. (Paragraph 75)

15.  We conclude that there is a strong case for the Electoral Commission to be given powers to intervene where EROs consistently fail to meet agreed performance standards. (Paragraph 77)

16.  We recommend that the Government ensure that the funding it provides to support local authorities with the transition to IER is ring-fenced for this purpose. (Paragraph 78)

Data matching

17.  The evidence we have received suggests that data matching will be of limited effectiveness, especially in identifying potential electors. We recommend that the Electoral Commission publish its evaluations of the pilots before second reading of the Bill, in order to inform debate. (Paragraph 83)

18.  Data matching can only be a success if local authorities are provided with the information they need in a timely and helpful way. We regret that the Ministry of Defence has taken so long to co-operate with at least one of the data matching pilots. This suggests that there may be a need for better central co-ordination and ministerial oversight of the data matching programme. (Paragraph 84)

Treatment of personal data

19.  The Government's proposals for data collection, retention and disposal appear to us to be proportionate. However, much of the detail is still unknown. (Paragraph 89)

Draft electoral administrations provisions

20.  The proposals published in July have been widely supported. We have had only a very limited opportunity to test the proposals published in September. (Paragraph 92)

21.  We recommend keeping the deadline for postal vote applications at eleven days before polling day. (Paragraph 93)

22.  Unless strong evidence should emerge to the contrary, we recommend that the Recess Elections Act should be amended to allow writs to be issued in recess for any vacancies that arise where a Member effectively resigns their seat. (Paragraph 94)

23.  The provisions published in draft by the Government are largely technical, but the Government needs to be able to explain why it is making the package of proposals that it is, and why it is not taking forward other proposals for change in electoral law, particularly those put forward by the Electoral Commission. (Paragraph 96)

24.  We recommend that in its response to this Report, the Government set out its position on each of the Electoral Commission's proposals for further reform of electoral administration law. (Paragraph 100)

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Prepared 4 November 2011