Automatic Voter Registration: March 2024

Dear Constituent,

Thank you for contacting me about voter registration.

I agree that it is important to boost engagement in our democratic processes.

The introduction of online registration has made the registration process considerably easier and faster for those who wish to register. The electoral registers at the previous two General Elections in 2017 and 2019 were the largest in history and satisfaction with the website is consistently above 90 per cent.

While I understand the intention behind your suggestion, there are currently no plans to introduce automatic voter registration. The Government considers registering to vote and voting to be a civic duty but I do not believe that they should be compulsory. I am aware of the Select Committee's Report, however, the Government told the Committee that there is currently no public service that, as part of its application procedures, captures all the data which is required to determine eligibility to vote and therefore it is not possible “to easily implement a system of fully automatic registration”.

Also, an automatic system would add people to the register without their knowledge, which is something that has been moved away from since 2014 with the introduction of Individual Electoral Registration. In evidence to the Committee, the Government said it believed it would bring “a greater propensity for inaccuracies such as more out of date information, or information being held against the wrong address”. Therefore, automatic registration could lead to unsolicited poll cards being sent to households with a high turnover, such as those in student accommodation, creating a greater risk of identity fraud, postal vote, and proxy vote fraud, or could inadvertently give people with second homes a second vote.

My colleagues in government recognise the importance of raising awareness among vulnerable and harder-to-reach groups. The Government’s 2019 progress report on democratic engagement highlights real progress in areas such as anonymous registration, which has made it easier to give greater protection to survivors of domestic violence.

Electoral Registration Officers have a statutory responsibility for compiling and maintaining accurate registers in their local area but it is ultimately the responsibility of the Electoral Commission to promote awareness of elections, including voter registration. In this capacity, the Commission conducts public awareness campaigns on registration, especially ahead of elections. Measures to raise awareness include sharing public awareness materials through government social media accounts, such as Facebook and X (formerly Twitter), as well as wider networks.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.