Earlier today the Government finally fell in to line with public opinion, the Electoral Commission and both the Liberal Democrat and Conservative parties by backing the introduction of individual electoral registration.
As the Electoral Commission’s press release says:
Electoral Commission Chair Jenny Watson said “We very much welcome this decision to introduce individual registration. The right to register to vote is of fundamental importance in our democracy – so important that it’s something for which individuals should take personal responsibility.
“A move to individual registration will also lead to a more accurate and secure electoral register, giving us a firm platform from which we can move to adopt innovative new methods of voting in the future, should Parliament wish to do so.
“The Commission has been calling for this change to be introduced in Great Britain since 2003 and we are clear that it cannot be done overnight. For it to be implemented in a way that puts the voter first will mean making sure people are aware of the change and what it means for them. It will also require comprehensive planning and support for electoral registration officers. We welcome the government’s recognition of this and we look forward to playing our part in making this change become reality.”
Individual registration: the background
As I wrote in November:
New research shows that by a margin of more than two-to-one the public backs changes to the electoral registration system that would reduce the scope for fraud.
The Liberal Democrats, Conservatives and Electoral Commission have all repeatedly called for the system of household registration, currently used in England, Scotland and Wales, to be abandoned in favour of individual registration, as is used in Northern Ireland.
The current system allows one person in a household to fill in a form on behalf of all the people living at an address. However, a system of individual registration could allow the collection of extra personal identifiers to ensure that people are really who they say they are when they take part in the electoral system. The introduction of personal identifiers to the postal voting system has brought a welcome reduction in the opportunities for fraud there, but it still leaves open other avenues of fraud that individual registration would severely curtail.