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Web voter registration ignored in Parliament changes

24/06/16

People who registered online in the rush for the EU referendum are not being taken into account in the redrawing of parliamentary constituencies

More than two million names are missing from the voting registers for redrawing parliamentary constituency boundaries, it has been revealed.

ParliamentThe Electoral Commission announced that a record 46,499,537 voters were eligible to take part in yesterday’s EU referendum ballot, following a last minute rush to register online.

The figure is more than two million higher than the 44,441,081 who were registered when the switch to individual electoral registration (IER) was completed last December.

It indicates that the missing names – almost 4.5% of the total – will be ignored when Westminster’s constituency boundaries are reshaped in order to cut 50 seats before the next general election in 2020.

The revelation is embarrassing for the Government, which rejected earlier warnings that a million names could be missing from the data held by local authorities last December.

'Mockery' protests

It is certain to fuel protests that the rush to complete IER - defying the Electoral Commission’s advice – has made a mockery of trying to create constituencies of equal size.

Completing the transition removed the names of any voters that had not been data-matched and transferred from the old household rolls. At the time, ministers argued that - after intensive household canvassing - all “genuine voters with a pulse” had been identified and switched over.

But the Electoral Commission revealed that almost 1.8 million have been added in just six months in England, around 116,000 in Scotland, about 100,000 in Wales and almost 23,000 in Northern Ireland. The campaign to encourage people to register through the GOV.UK website to vote in the referendum has prompted a surge in voter numbers.

When challenged last week, John Penrose, the constitutional reform minister, insisted it was too late for the Boundary Commission to use the most recent register, when making its calculations. 

He argued the only alternative would be to use the electoral rolls from 2001 - or from 2000 in some parts of the country – which were “shockingly out of date”.

Missing young

Many of the missing voters are thought to be younger people, less likely to support the Conservatives, who will not be counted when the boundaries are shifted.

In the House of Commons last week, Labour accused the Government of “using voter registration for their own political gain”.

Next month, the Electoral Commission will reveal the ‘missing voter blackspots’, when it publishes fresh research on the accuracy of the registers drawn up each local council, under IER.

The Commission had called for the household rolls to be used until December 2016, partly because software problems left it unable to spot the areas with most ‘missing’ voters.

Image by McKay Savage, London, CC BY 2.0 through Wikimedia Commons

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