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Report calls for online checks for voter registration



Electoral Commission makes the proposal in response to the lessons from the general election

People should be able to check online that they are correctly registered to vote, according to a proposal from the Electoral Commission.

It has also said the online service allowing voters to make their initial registration – introduced one year ago – should be extended to Northern Ireland.

The twin recommendations come in report by the Electoral Commission into how the UK general election was run.

It says the government should develop an online service for voters to check their registration, but that it would need to be carefully managed to protect their personal information. This reflects the fact that, although people have been able to apply to register online, the system does not provide automatic or immediate approval of their application.

Despite this, online registration has been judged a success in England, Scotland and Wales, and should be extended to Northern Ireland. The report says the chief electoral officer and Northern Ireland Office should publish a timetable for the move.

Voter satisfaction

The watchdog finds the poll was “well run overall with high levels of voter satisfaction”, with 2.6 million applications to vote during its six week public awareness campaign. But is suggests that people who are uncertain whether they are already correctly registered to vote would benefit greatly from being able to check online.

Jenny Watson, the Electoral Commission’s chairwoman, said: “Given the range of public services now available online, it’s not surprising that voters expect a service that allows them to check if they’re already registered to vote before having to complete an application.

“That is a sensible next step in refreshing our registration system for the 21st century.

“A significant set of elections are taking place next May and the Commission will once again run major public awareness campaigns to remind people it takes just a few minutes to complete a registration application online.”

The registration website allows people to register using their smartphones and tablets in just three minutes, ministers said. However, yesterday, there was no response to the Commission’s call for checks to be made online, in a statement issued to MPs by the Speaker's Committee.

Identity proof

It has also been asked to consider the Commission’s renewed plea for voters to be required to provide proof of their identity before being issued with a ballot paper at a polling station.

The watchdog will publish proposals for a “proportionate and accessible scheme for verifying the identity of electors” by the end of this year. And it is urging the government to pass legislation to introduce the ID check in time for elections in 2019.



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