Bringing electoral registration into the twenty-first century

The new system of Individual Electoral Registration (IER) will be introduced in England and Wales on 10 June 2014 and on 19 September 2014 in Scotland.

The current system still mainly relies on the Victorian idea of the ‘head of the household’ being responsible for registering everyone who lives at that property. The Electoral Commission has long called for the introduction of IER, arguing that individual registration would improve the accuracy and integrity of the register. The new system will require voters to register individually and provide personal identifiers (their date of birth and National Insurance number) to verify their application.

Will everyone have to re-register?

To facilitate the transfer of voters from the old register to the new IER register, data-matching will take place against records held by the DWP so that as many voters as possible can automatically be confirmed on the new register.

Household enquiry forms (HEFs) and invitations to register will be sent to addresses and individuals respectively where the Electoral Registration Officers [EROs] are not certain whether all the residents who are eligible to be registered have been transferred to the new system. There will be a national public awareness campaign this summer about the introduction of the new registration system by the Electoral Commission.

What will the effect of IER be?

When individual registration was introduced in Northern Ireland the numbers on the register there fell by 10.5%, although the legislation was seen as successful in reducing electoral fraud. In response to concerns that the introduction of IER in the rest of the UK will mean a fall in registration rates, everyone currently registered will be carried over onto the register that will be used for the 2015 general election. However, voters who have an existing absent voting arrangement (either postal or proxy) will need to be registered under IER in order to retain their postal or proxy votes. Special efforts will be made by EROs to ensure these voters are made aware of the need to be registered under IER.

Voters will also be able to register online for the first time; online registration was announced by the Government in January 2014.

Further information is provided in the Library’s note, Individual Electoral Registration.

Author: Isobel White