Government plans to go ahead with the next election on the basis of an individual voter register, as opposed to the current household register, have been given a boost after an experiment suggested nearly 80% of the electorate could be transferred to an individual register automatically. There were concerns the government was pressing ahead too fast and millions of voters would be disenfranchised as they failed to switch from a household register to the individual register. But a data-matching survey conducted by the Cabinet Office and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) showed that more than 35 million voters – an average of 73% – can be transferred automatically to the electoral register. This national average figure masks differences in localities, with some boroughs mainly in London likely to produce much lower levels of automatic registration. However, the Electoral Commission, who recommended individual registration in a report on Wednesday, raised concerns that students and young adults whose living situations are for more transient, could also lose out in the automatic transfer process as they were a harder group to match. The test involved the matching of all 380 electoral registers, with around 46 million people, against DWP data.
The survey found that 78% of electors matched and local data matching has the potential to add an average of 7%, taking the numbers that could be put on the register as 85% before electoral registration officers go door to door to sweep up others.
But the figure for the successful matching ranged from a low 47% in Kensington & Chelsea to 86% in Mansfield. Among the 20 lowest boroughs, 19 were in urban areas, and 13 in inner London boroughs.
The government has said that it will go ahead with the new register from 2014 in England and Wales, with the process being delayed in Scotland until after the Scottish referendum.