General election: More than nine million people ‘at risk of losing vote over wrong details’

Electoral Commission says findings strengthen its call to allow voting register to be linked into public data records

Patrick Daly
Thursday 26 September 2019 13:04 BST
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Up to 17 per cent of eligible voters did not have their correct address details on the roll, putting as many as 9.4 million people at risk of losing their vote, according to a new study.

Linking the electoral register to public databases – such as the DVLA’s driver records – could help enrol more than 9 million additional voters, the research states.

With an autumn election looking to be on the cards, the Electoral Commission said the findings should strengthen its call for the government to allow the register to be linked into public data records.

At present, individuals are responsible for ensuring their details are up-to-date, with local councils writing to citizens in between elections to check electoral register details are correct.

But under reforms being proposed by the commission, when a motorist informs the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) of an address change for their driver’s licence, officials want to see that information shared automatically so the electoral roll can be updated.

A similar proposal would see young people enrolled on to the register upon applying for a National Insurance card when seeking employment.

Research on the accuracy of the electoral register found that young people and private renters were those most likely to fail to update their records, putting them at risk of being ineligible to vote at the next election – or even a second Brexit referendum, which is sought by a majority of Westminster parties.

Sir John Holmes, chair of the commission, said: “More still needs to be done to make registration easier for everyone and, crucially, to help under-registered groups, such as young people and private renters, make sure they are registered.

“Better use of public data could hold the key to modernising the electoral registration process,” he said.

“We know that when people move house, registering to vote may not be a priority.

“Giving electoral administrators access to reliable and trusted public data would help them more easily identify people who have moved and may be eligible to register to vote.

“Being able to change your electoral registration details whilst, for example, updating your driving licence could be another way of making it easier for people to ensure they are registered.”

The roll research, the first of its kind in three years, found that electoral numbers were stable but that young people and private renters were the most likely to be missing.

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A little under 60 per cent of private renters were found to be correctly signed up, compared to 91 per cent who own their houses outright.

Registration levels were also found to be low among young people aged between 18 and 34, with only 71 per cent correctly registered, compared to 94 per cent of people aged 65 and over.

More than a 10th of entries were found to be inaccurate, an issue affecting up to 5.6 million people.

The data was collected via a house-to-house survey of 5,079 addresses across 127 local authority areas across Britain.

Press Association

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