Labour is to consider adopting automatic voter registration as a policy if it came into power in order to increase election turnout.
The party, which timed its announcement on Friday to coincide with the last day that people can register to vote in local elections on 2 May, said it would examine different options used internationally, including where automatic voter registration had successfully increased overall registration levels.
Cat Smith, Labour’s shadow minister for voter engagement, has been tasked with examining systems in Canada, Belgium and a number of other countries where an automatic voter registration system has been successfully introduced. An estimated seven million people in the UK are not on the electoral register.
“Individual electoral registration has not achieved what we were told it would,” Smith said. “Millions of people are still missing from the register, with disproportionately low levels of registration amongst mobile, marginalised and vulnerable voter groups.
“There are many successful examples around the world of automatic voter registration systems, so we are examining the use of government data to automatically place people on the electoral roll. We are committed to drastically increasing voter registration to ensure every eligible voter can have their say.”
Labour has already announced it intends to lower the voting age to 16.Options for automatic registration include using government data to automatically place people on the electoral roll when they are issued with a national insurance number.
Voter registration is particularly low in areas with high concentrations of young people, many in privately rented accommodation, and in places with a high concentration of people from BAME backgrounds. Recent figures from the Electoral Commission suggest 24% of black voters in the UK are not registered.
The Electoral Commission’s chief executive, Claire Bassett, has previously suggested automatic registration would increase turnout. “We believe that more automatic registration processes would greatly improve the system, with voters being added to the register after providing their details to other government services,” she said. Read more