The upcoming general election is a vital opportunity for all citizens to have their say on the future of the country. It is estimated, however, up to 8 million people may be missing from the electoral register.
This will be the third UK-wide poll in as many years, and despite the efforts of many campaigners and non-governmental organisations there is still much work to be done, if we are to ensure citizens are registered and able to play an active role in democracy.
Research shows that two-thirds of polling stations turned away would be voters at the last general election. It is therefore hugely important that our electoral registers include all citizens that would like to exercise their civic right and become as complete and accurate as possible.
Last year, the All Party Parliamentary Group on Democratic Participation published a report setting out practical measures that would address the problems and ensure that Britain has a truly inclusive democracy.
The APPG's Chair and Co-Chairs therefore propose the following recommendations based on the report:
1. Introducing a national website so that citizens can check their own registration status online.
2. Encouraging recipients of National Insurance number notification letters to register to vote online.
3. Funding and supporting for National Voter Registration Drives.
4. Strengthen the short- and long-term funding of electoral registration services, so that they are sufficiently resourced to provide high quality services to citizens
5. Nudging citizens to register to vote online when they access government services such as paying council tax, renewing car taxes or registering for benefits
6. Obliging HMRC to encourage people to register when provided with their NI numbers
7. Providing citizens the opportunity to register to vote when they interact with other government services such as paying their car tax
8. Piloting methods to allow citizens to choose the polling station that they vote in
9. Identify ways of automatically registering all eligible citizens
10. Support the Law Commission's proposals to consolidate and modernise electoral law
These are practical steps that are essential for improving the democratic process and putting the voter first. We urge every political party to put these measures in their manifestos and take them forward into the next Parliament.
This blog is written on behalf of:
Bite The Ballot, APPG Convenor
Dr. Toby James, APPG Lead Fellow
Nicky Morgan MP, APPG Chair
Lord Blunkett, APPG Co-Chair
Lord Rennard, APPG Co-Chair
Liz Saville Roberts, APPG Co-Chair
Mark Durkan MP, APPG Co-Chair
Danny Kinahan MP, APPG Co-Chair
Caroline Lucas MP, APPG Co-Chair
Gavin Robinson MP, APPG Co-Chair
Baroness Grey-Thompson, APPG Co-Chair