An estimated 800,000 people have dropped off the electoral register since the government introduced changes to the system, with students in university towns at highest risk of being disenfranchised, the Guardian has learned. Labour says it fears that the missing sections of the electorate are predominantly its supporters after the government moved from registration of electors by household to asking individuals to sign up, citing fears of fraud and error. The estimated number of voters registered in December – the first figure under the new individual electoral registration system – is lower than in the previous year, with just months to go before May’s local, assembly and mayoral elections.
Overall 1.8% of voters are estimated to have dropped off the register across the population and figures compiled by the Labour party found the register had shrunk more dramatically in areas with a high population of students, such as Canterbury, which has seen a 13% drop, and Cambridge and Dundee West, both with an 11% fall.
Gloria De Piero, the shadow minister for electoral registration, said the data revealed an alarming reduction in students on the register, which is likely to raise fears that election results could be swayed by missing blocks of like-minded voters.
With the national voter registration drive starting today, De Piero has written to John Penrose, a Cabinet Office minister, to call for all universities to offer registration for students when they enrol.