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Automatic registration key to boosting election turnout

“Ambitious reform” is urgently needed to ensure as many people as possible are able to exercise their right to vote in the future, a report by the Electoral Commission, the body who independently oversee elections, has stated.

Looking at a snapshot of the electoral register in December 2016, the Commission found that while the electorate had increased 2.3% on the previous year to 45,766,429, there was still a lot of work to do to make sure it included as much of the population as it possibly could ahead of local elections in May.

In particular, the Commission recommended that more automatic registration processes would be a good move to grow the electoral register, as it warned that the current annual canvass in the UK was “no longer the most effective or cost-efficient way of maintaining the registers”.

Claire Bassett, CEO of the Electoral Commission, said: “The electoral registers have grown following last year’s major electoral events, but we cannot be complacent as millions remain not correctly registered.”

Bassett also pledged to continue to work with the government and local authorities to trial new methods that would modernise the registration process.

“As part of its Modernising Electoral Registration Programme, the Cabinet Office is conducting a number of pilot schemes to test whether the current requirements on how to conduct the canvass in Great Britain could be changed to make the process more efficient and less costly,” she said.

A move towards automatic registration would “greatly improve” the system, Bassett added. In practical terms, automatic registration would be enabled by voters being added to the register after providing information for other government services.

Bassett explained: “A key example would be the automatic registration of young people when they are issued with a National Insurance number, helping to address historic under-registration of this age group”.

Other schemes that have been announced in the past include the Government as a Platform notification service, which would allow people to be sent notifications about important government services.

Alongside the emphasis on an automated registration system, the Commission will also continue with a national voter registration campaign ahead of elections on 4 May on TV, radio and digitally to increase the visibility of the elections and bolster the number of people heading to the polls.

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