Councils ‘itching’ for digital approach to voter registration

Tracking down potential voters via door-to-door canvassing may soon be a thing of the past, according to a government minister.

The government is considering compiling electoral rolls from data sources rather than requiring voters to register, in order to take part in elections.
Minister for Constitutional Reform John Penrose has suggested the annual canvass to update the electoral rolls is outdated and unnecessary, querying why the process is so “difficult” – in contrast with benefit claims.
During a Commons debate on individual electoral registration (IER), Penrose said: “We should ask ourselves why we ask all those people to re-register every single year, once they have made their individual decision to register to vote.
“We do not ask them to re-register for their tax credits, their TV licence or their benefit claims every single year.”
Penrose said a “large number of local authorities” were “itching to use” other data to avoid re-registering voters.
This would make the annual canvass much more efficient, as authorities could “prove that 90% of people have not moved” since they last cast their vote.
“We could then focus our annual canvass efforts on the 10% who do not match up and who are causing the problem, on under-represented groups or on places that seem to have empty houses when we know that people are living there.”
However, the Labour Party argued that “close to a million people would drop off the register as a result, which would be “disastrous”.
Penrose said the missing voters – 1.9 million in total – would have been contacted “up to nine times over the past 18 months, in some cases more” and was confident no one would be disenfranchised by the new system.

Colin Marrs

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