The Labour Party has pledged to use existing government data to register voters if it wins power, in order to plug the gaping holes in the UK’s electoral rolls.
Its general election manifesto, published last week, announces firm support for automatic voter registration, instead of requiring individuals to take the initiative themselves.
The move comes after the Electoral Commission warned recently that as many as 9.4 million eligible voters are either not on the electoral roll or are not registered at their registered current address.
Unless that is corrected by the deadline of 11.59pm on Tuesday 26 November, those people will not be able to vote in the general election on 12 December.
Many countries around the world already automatically register voters, or allow same-day registration at polling stations, including Finland, Sweden, South Korea and 16 US states.
Announcing Labour’s plans to follow suit, Cat Smith (pictured), the party’s voter engagement spokeswoman, said it was “the sensible thing to do”.
“We are currently facing an unprecedented democratic crisis with up to 9.5 million people in Great Britain not registered to vote correctly,” she said. "The next Labour government will take radical steps to drastically increase voter registration.
“Drawing on the many successful examples around the world, we will introduce a system of automatic voter registration, unlocking millions of potential voters from our democracy.”
National insurance possibility
Smith did not say which government data would be used, but Labour has previously suggested automatically placing people on the electoral roll when they are issued with a national insurance number.
The switch is likely to benefit Labour in an election, because a large proportion of its voters are young and rent their homes – the very people most likely to fall off the register, because they move home more frequently.
A poll for The Independent website found strong backing for the policy, but not among older voters.
Automatic voter registration, at the age of 18, was supported by 59% of those questioned, against 34 %who said it should remain an individual responsibility. It was backed by all age groups except the over-65s and by supporters of all major parties except the Conservatives and the Brexit Party.
Image from parliament.uk, CC BY 3.0