A recently published Electoral Commission report on the accuracy of the electoral register indicates a significant under under-representation of people:
- There are 3.5 million people missing from the register in 2000
- Between 1988 and 2008registtration fell from 97% to 91%.
- More than 50% of 18 – 24 year olds are not registered to vote.
- In 41% of areas there is inadequate promotion of the electoral register
- 49% of tenants in the private sector and 31% of BME residents are not registered to vote.
- There has been a 40 year decline in registration.
The report makes a number of practical proposals to improve registration including moving the date of the annual canvass to the beginning of the year.
This level of under representation does not just mean local people are potentially denied a vote. It is also indicative of other challenges:
- Levels of Council Tax Collection might be lower than expected due to a higher level of single person discount?
- The accuracy of the 2011 census could be compromised thus potentially reducing funds for some local authorities?
With a General Election due in two months, it is right that electoral registration is the key focus at present, however developing an approach to other under-registration challenges is something we will return to in order to consider how the census can be both delivered and marketed more effectively, when enumeration starts next year.
Charlie Mansell is Research and Development Officer of the Campaign Company