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Government defies data problems to cut short IER change



Transition to individual electoral registration terminated after Electoral Commission called for more time

The government has decided to end the transition to individual electoral registration (IER) in the coming December, a year earlier than the date recommended by the Electoral Commission.

It follows the commission’s recommendation, made in a report published last month, that the change from registrations by household to individuals should be held back until December 2016 due to problems with the data.

Minister for constitutional reform John Penrose submitted a written statement to Parliament yesterday confirming the transition will end this December, claiming that if it carried forward voters who had not individually registered in would “pose an unacceptable risk to the accuracy of the register”.

“The government does not agree that we should be making a choice between completeness and accuracy, given the importance of both elements in delivering a fair democratic system which commands the confidence and respect of voters,” he said. “We need to be more ambitious. We can and should aim to achieve both, which is why the government believes it is crucial that the registers used to conduct the parliamentary boundary review and for next year’s elections are as complete and as accurate as they can possibly be.”

He claimed the “carry forward” group of electors is now just a third of its original size and said that by December they will have been contacted at least nine times to encourage them to register individually.

Distribution and software

The Electoral Commission estimated that 1.9 million people could fall off the register because of the problems. These include variations in the distribution between local authorities of the proportion coming from the old household registrations. There had also been reports of software problems with electoral management systems at some local authorities, which affected the quality of data they could provide to the commission.

The Labour Party pointed out that the 2015 registers will form the basis for the boundary review and local elections in 2016, and claimed the government was “rigging the game in its favour”.

Shadow justice secretary Lord Falconer said: “The Tories are ignoring the Electoral Commission’s recommendation not to proceed in December 2015 – a decision which risks depriving millions of people of a vote as they fall off the electoral register.  This looks like a partisan decision intended to help the Tories' push through a boundary review rigged in their favour.”




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