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Electoral Registration

Volume 542: debated on Tuesday 20 March 2012

Electoral registration officers have the power to require any person to provide information about any aspect of a person’s eligibility to register. It is currently not an offence not to be registered to vote, but it is an offence not to provide information to an ERO when required to do so. Under our plans for individual electoral registration, we do not intend to criminalise people who fail to register when invited to do so. However, we are considering the merits of introducing a civil penalty for a non-response to an invitation to register, and will announce our decision when we bring forward the legislation.

Does the Deputy Prime Minister agree that leaving electoral registration officers without the power to criminalise those who refuse to register to vote will effectively tie one of their hands behind their back?

I do not think that many electoral registration officers feel that it is necessary to put a new criminal offence on the statute book to deal with that issue, which is why we have been quite open about the fact that we want to keep the existing offences on the statute book but are considering a civil offence to ensure that the right information is provided to electoral registration officers.

Ian White and Heather Jackson at the electoral registration department of Kettering borough council, of which I am a proud member, do a superb job in registering local people on the electoral register. What can the Deputy Prime Minister do to encourage the dissemination of best practice, because clearly some electoral registration officers are not up to the job?

That is an excellent idea, and it is exactly one of the tasks of the Electoral Commission to find out where EROs are most effective and then ensure that their colleagues in other parts of the country are aware of best practice.