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Electoral Register

Volume 479: debated on Thursday 17 July 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice (1) what the percentage of voter registration is estimated to be in each (a) constituency and (b) local authority area in England; (218824)

(2) what the target level for voter registration is;

(3) what plans he has to enable local authorities to maximise voter registration.

The Government have not made any estimate of the percentage of voter registration in each constituency and local authority area in England. The Electoral Commission estimated that 3.5 million eligible electors were not registered to vote in their report, Understanding Electoral Registration, which was published in September 2005. However the number of electors registered in England continues to grow and between 2 December 2006 and 1 December 2007 the number of parliamentary electors grew from 37,588,775 to 37,817,466 and the number of local government electors grew from 38,223,259 to 38,599,775.

The Government have not set any target level for voter registration, as we believe that all eligible electors should be registered to vote. To support this aim we have taken a number of steps to increase voter registration rates. Section 9 of the Electoral Administration Act 2006 placed a new duty on electoral registration officers to take all necessary steps to maintain the electoral register, including sending the annual canvass form more than once, making house to house inquiries and inspecting records that they are permitted to inspect. It is for the ERO to decide on the best steps to use in conjunction with their local knowledge to ensure that requirements for making contact with persons and maintaining the register are complied with. To support such activities we have made £2.5 million available each financial year under our Participation Fund, which allows EROs to apply for additional funding to assist them in promoting electoral awareness within their areas.

The Act also includes a provision for the Electoral Commission to introduce new performance standards for EROs. The Electoral Commission is currently developing these standards and the final set of standards will be published during July 2008. A copy of these standards will be laid before the House and the information obtained from local authorities as a consequence will give us a better understanding of the actions taken to increase registration.