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Electoral Register

Volume 475: debated on Tuesday 6 May 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what evidence there is that a move to individual registration would increase under-registration of those who are legally entitled to vote. (203026)

The only comparable evidence that a move to individual registration would increase under registration in Great Britain is what happened in Northern Ireland. The Electoral Commission report, ‘Electoral Registration in Northern Ireland’, published in 2004, found a decrease of 10 per cent. in the number of names included on the August 2002 register and the December 2002 register, equating to approximately 120,000 fewer names. Since this time the situation has improved, as demonstrated by ONS figures which confirm the number of electors for 2007 grew by 50,078 (4.7 per cent.) to 1,120,343 for parliamentary elections and by 50,857 (4.7 per cent.) to 1,125,935 for local government elections.

The report concluded that the system of registration could make it difficult for specific groups in society to access the electoral process. These included young people and students, people with learning disabilities and other forms of disability and those living in areas of high social deprivation.

Any new system of electoral registration in GB would need to be tailored to current circumstances, and in particular would need to address the challenge of under-registration in GB, where an estimated 3.5 million eligible electors are not registered to vote.

We are already committed to the principle of individual registration. But this would be a far-reaching reform, and it would need to be undertaken with great care—both to make sure a new system is robust, and to ensure that it properly tackles the problem of under-registration.

Our vision for electoral registration is clear: We want to protect the rights of every eligible person to participate in the United Kingdom's democratic process by ensuring complete, accurate and secure electoral registration.