This week the Cabinet Office has published its detailed implementation plan for the introduction of individual electoral registration in England, Scotland and Wales. (Northern Ireland already uses it.)
Individual electoral registration has long been pushed for by the Electoral Commission and supported by all three of the main political parties. However, getting the details right is important as this is one of those issues where the administrative details can completely wreck the policy if got wrong.
Key elements of the plan include:
- The move to individual electoral registration will start after the 2014 European Parliament elections.
- “The transition will begin with the confirmation of existing electors. This means that if an elector’s name is on the electoral register when the transition begins, we will try to match their name against information held by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) on its Customer Information System. If we can match it, that entry on the register will be confirmed, the elector will be told about this and they will not need to take any further action. Evidence from piloting carried out in 2011 suggests that about two thirds of electors could be confirmed this way, but this process is being tested and refined this year to confirm how it will work in practice.”
- “Where there is no information or some doubt about who lives at an address an ERO will ask the residents to identify who lives at that address and then invite them to apply to register individually. People will be reminded more than once and if they still do not respond, will be visited by a canvasser before a new electoral register is published in December 2014.”
- “If you were on the register before the transition got underway, have not been confirmed on the register and have not yet applied individually, you will stay on the December 2014 register and not lose your vote at the 2015 General Election. However you will have to make a successful new application before December 2015, otherwise your name will be taken off the register.”
- “There will be safeguards in place to ensure that only those who refuse repeated invitations can be fined, and registration officers will have to take specific steps to encourage an application before they can issue a fine.”
- “If an elector is already on the register and has a postal or proxy vote and their details are matched against the DWP records and confirmed on the register, they will be informed and will not have to take any further action to stay on the register and keep their postal or proxy vote. If they are not matched against the DWP records, they will be informed and asked to make an individual application. If they do not do so, they will stay on the register for the 2015 General Election, but lose their postal or proxy vote.”