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Electoral Registration and Administration Act 2013 2012-13

Royal Assent

(This Bill is from a previous session)

Summary

  • Bill status:

    Bill is now an Act

  • Type of Bill:

    Government Bill

Sponsors:

Last event

Summary

The draft Individual Electoral Registration Bill and white paper were published on 30 June 2011, with further draft provisions on electoral administration being published later in the year.  The Bill will technically apply to the whole of the UK, but the majority of its measures will apply only to Great Britain. The Electoral Registration and Administration Bill was announced in the Queen's speech of 9 May 2012 and introduced to the House of Commons the following day.

It aims to reduce electoral fraud by requiring all voters to register individually, and amend rules governing UK electoral administration to account for changes to the Parliamentary cycle.

The Bill allows for:

  • the current move towards Individual Electoral Registration (IER)to be completed by 2014
  • all current registered voters to remain on the electoral register for the 2015 general election, with new voters, postal voters and proxy voters having to register individually
  • the individual collection of signatures or other personal identifiers, which can be used to reduce electoral fraud
  • greater use of the internet in the electoral registration process
  • the possibility that the annual canvass may be ended in the future, in favour of an alternative system to maintain the completeness of the electoral register
  • the timetable for UK Parliamentary elections to be extended from 17 to 25 working days, and various deadlines within the timetable to be adjusted. This will synchronise the timetable with that of local elections, and allow more time for the postal vote process
  • the timing of polling place reviews to be adjusted in accordance with the five year election cycle introduced by theFixed-term Parliament Act 2011 and the five year election boundary review cycle implemented by theParliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act 2011
  • Parliamentary election candidates jointly nominated by two or more registered political parties to use one of the parties' emblems on the ballot paper
  • parish or community council elections to be held on the same day as general and local government elections

The government launched a series of data matching pilot schemes alongside the draft Bill, designed to maximise the number of registered voters. These will compare local electoral registers to other public databases in order to identify unregistered voters.

The previous, Labour government announced plans to move towards IER in 2009, but the current government's plans will speed up this process by removing Labour's voluntary phase, and making individual registration compulsory by 2014. It is estimated that the switch to IER will cost £108.3 million, although the government claims it will save £74 million by scrapping this voluntary stage.

The coalition agreement committed the government to "reduc[ing] electoral fraud by speeding up the implementation of individual voter registration", and the Bill will be supported by both coalition partners.

Although Labour took the first steps towards IER whilst in government, and promised "to end the unacceptable situation where three million eligible voters cannot vote because they are not registered to do so" in its election manfesto, the party have been critical of the plans. At the 2011 Labour autumn conference, Harriet Harman vowed that her party would campaign against the plans, and accused the Conservatives of cynically engineering the voting population to improve their chances at the next election.

The Electoral Commission has been calling for a switch to IER since 2003, and so has welcomed the general principles of the Bill. Fears have been raised that the reliance on individuals may reduce the number of registered voters though, and the commission has warned that "the government needs to design the transition carefully to ensure that people do not lose out on the opportunity to register and vote."