Sensible news from the government yesterday with talk of modification to its plans for individual electoral registration in the light of comments made during its consultation.
Many people (including myself) criticised the plans to weaken the legal requirement to register, either because they oppose voluntary registration in principle or because even if they are warm to voluntary registration in theory they think that switching to individual registration and voluntary registration at the same time is a recipe for disaster. One should be done, sorted and settled in before the other is addressed.
As has been heavily trailed, the government is indeed thinking again and it is now:
Reconsidering an individual’s ability to opt out [of registering] – looking to either tighten this provision or remove it altogether.
Another area of criticism during the consultation was over concerns that the last ‘traditional’ electoral register would be too dated by the time the new process is brought in for it to be a good basis for the new process. However, running the traditional process for another year would run up extra costs running into the tens of millions. The government is therefore proposing a sensible sounding compromise of postponing the autumn 2013 electoral register canvass to spring 2014, so that it is much less dated when it is used as the basis for the new process but without requiring an extra canvass.
Many traps lie in the administrative details of electoral register canvasses, which is why I only say “sensible sounding compromise”; we’ll have to see how the details look as people pour over them in the coming days and weeks.
The government is also proposing to make more extensive use of data matching so that different public sector records are used to help populate the electoral register. You can read more about this and the other parts of the government response below.
If you are wondering why bother with individual electoral registration in the first place and why Labour first kicked off the plans for introducing it, see What’s the point of switching to individual electoral registration?