Comment on Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee electoral registration report

The Committee’s report finds that the current state of the electoral registration system, which governs local elections in England and UK general elections, needs urgent review.

We agree the electoral registration system needs urgent reappraisal. This would ideally be via an independent Royal or Parliamentary Commission review of core electoral delivery processes.

A single Electoral Administration Act built on joined-up thinking would benefit everyone.

We would welcome more consideration around automatic voter registration, and wholeheartedly agree improved data sharing from national and local government with Electoral Registration Officers (EROs) is a must.

The Committee is also right to highlight new complexities introduced by the Elections Act 2022. As our Chief Executive Peter Stanyon said after last year’s local elections, stacking significant changes on endemic issues is increasing risk for all elections, but especially a high turnout general election.

The potential uplift of registrations from overseas electors ahead of the next general election is a major concern for our members. There are many unknowns around these applications – volume, timing, and how many will need additional documentation or attestation. This means no ERO knows what to expect.

Costs are another ongoing worry. A general election will see applications to register to vote spike massively, possibly continuing an upward trend towards postal votes since the pandemic – now made easier by being able to apply for a postal vote online.

Additional costs include processing voter authority certificates for electors without other forms of accepted photo ID and registering overseas electors. While there has been some new burdens funding from government, actual costs can only be guessed at. Most registration-related costs at a UK Parliamentary election are paid for by local councils.

There are also the personal costs to the electoral professionals trying to keep an increasing number of plates spinning. The job is becoming harder and more stressful, increasing sector concerns around recruitment and retention.