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A ‘Damning Indictment’: Eight Million Voters May Be Disenfranchised in General Election, MPs Find

The UK’s electoral registration arrangements are a ‘threat to the rights of British voters’

Photo: PA/Alamy

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A staggering eight million people could be disenfranchised and prevented from voting at this year’s crucial general election in a “damning indictment” of the UK’s democracy, a new parliamentary report has found.

The House of Commons’ Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee has found that the current electoral registration system is inefficient and ineffective, and the new requirement of having to show mandatory voter photo ID at the ballot box will make matters worse.

Labour MP Clive Betts, the committee’s chair, said: “Elections are the cornerstone of our democracy and yet we are burdened by a system which is both ineffective and inefficient, where millions of people are disenfranchised because they are incorrectly registered or not on the electoral register.

 “In the year of a general election, this is a damning indictment of the UK’s electoral registration arrangements and a threat to the rights of British voters.

“Our voter registration system is creaking. Recent changes such as voter ID have been tacked onto a Victorian era system which is failing voters, political parties, and election officials. 

“We need a major review of our election arrangements to boost voter registration and to ensure our elections are seen as credible and legitimate. It is a major and fundamental defect in our democratic system that many millions of UK citizens face being unable to make their voice heard at election time.”


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The report singles out young people, renters, ethnic minorities, and those in lower socio-economic groups as significantly less likely to be registered to vote.

The committee was also told that some disabled people do not feel supported to register to vote, and that they particularly struggle with the lack of variety in communication channels.

The report calls for a widening of acceptable forms of voter ID – including travel passes outside London, emergency services passes, and police warrant cards.

The Government did not agree to extending the list of acceptable photo voter ID passes, but research has shown that, at last year’s local elections in May, some 740,000 people – about 4% of the voters – were turned away because they did not have adequate ID.

As reported by Byline Times previously, the Government has been focusing on changing the law to allow more British citizens living abroad to vote. The move would enable an approximately 3.4 million more expatriates living overseas to participate in the next election – though secondary legislation to do this has yet to be passed by Parliament and no guidance has so far been issued.

The committee states that it is concerned about how the change would be “fully implemented by the next election” and that the “remaining provisions are more complex to introduce than voter ID, exacerbating the pressures of election time because of applications for voter authority certificates, overseas applications, and the reapplication of postal votes”. 

“This increases the risk of something major going wrong at a national election, including large numbers of people being turned away or voters not put on the registers in time to vote which would impact the current high level of confidence in the electoral system,” it adds.

The committee also wants to see people be encouraged to register to vote, through other bodies signposting individuals as to how they can get their names on the electoral register. It suggests that bodies such as the Department for Work and Pensions, HM Revenue and Customs, the Driver Vehicle and Licensing Agency, and HM Passport Office could do this.

The report recommends that registering to vote also be signposted when national insurance numbers are issued to citizens, when they turn 16, as a way of ensuring that more young people are placed on the electoral register. It cites Canada, which has a similar electoral system to the UK as a good example – there provincial authorities have mandatory lessons in schools helping pupils to register to vote.


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Levelling Up secretary Michael Gove now sets the overarching “strategy and policy” of the previously independent Electoral Commission.

A spokesperson for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said: “We are committed to ensuring everyone can have their say in our democracy.

“Individual electoral registration has stopped fraud and ensured a more accurate register. The 2019 General Election was contested on the largest ever electoral register.

“As recommended by the independent Electoral Commission, we have introduced identification for voting in person across Great Britain, mirroring long-standing arrangements in Northern Ireland. 99.75% of English voters in the polling station cast their vote successfully at local elections in May last year and councils will provide free identification certificates to anyone who asks.”

The Government has been accused of watering-down the independence of the Electoral Commission by drawing up a “strategy and policy statement” for its work.

Since 2019, there have been just four proven cases of voter fraud, resulting in one conviction and three cautions, as shown by Electoral Commission figures.

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