Electoral Registration and Administration Bill

The Government today published the Electoral Registration and Administration Bill, which, if passed, will tackle electoral fraud by speeding up the introduction of individual electoral registration and modernise the system of voter registration.

The new Bill also paves the way for online registration, which would make it more convenient for individuals to ensure they are registered to vote.

The Government today published the Electoral Registration and Administration Bill, which, if passed, will tackle electoral fraud by speeding up the introduction of individual electoral registration and modernise the system of voter registration. The Bill includes the Government's plans for individual electoral registration, which would end the practice of the head of a household being responsible for registering everyone in a property.

Currently, the head of a household registers everyone who lives at the same address. Under the system of individual registration, everyone would register separately, each providing their own unique identifiers, like National Insurance number and date of birth, so their information can be verified.

The new registration system is due to be in place by the end of 2015. During 2014, voters would be transferred to the new system of registration by matching data on the current electoral register with other public records, so around two thirds would not have to take any action in order to remain on the electoral register.

Under the data matching process, an elector's name and address would be compared against other public databases. If an individual's details match then they will not have to take any action to remain on the register. Where electors details cannot be confirmed, individuals will be personally invited to register under the new system. This will help ensure that we have an electoral register which is as accurate and complete as possible.

Over the past year, the Government's proposals have been subject to extensive consultation and pre-legislative scrutiny.

Under the current system, failure to respond to a household canvass or not provide information to an Electoral Registration Officer (ERO) is a criminal offence punishable by a 1000 GBP fine and which leaves you with a criminal record. The Government does not propose any extension of the existing offence. Instead, the Bill proposes a lesser civil offence, more like a parking fine, where an individual fails to make an application to register to vote. This will provide appropriate encouragement for people to do their civic duty and register to vote. However, it is not our intention to see large numbers of people fined, and so there will be safeguards in place to ensure that EROs are required to take specific steps to encourage an application and only those who refuse repeated invitations can be fined.

Mark Harper, Minister for Political and Constitutional Reform, said:

"We must do everything we can to minimise the risk of fraud and increase trust in our electoral system, while encouraging as many eligible voters as possible to get registered to vote."

"Alongside the measures for online registration and to improve the administration of elections, I am confident that the Electoral Registration and Administration Bill will create a fair, robust and efficient system, fit to face the challenges of the 21st century."

As well as preparation for individual electoral registration, there are also provisions in the Bill to increase voter participation, further improve the integrity of our electoral system and ensure that the process underpinning our elections is more robust. The electoral timetable for UK Parliamentary elections will be extended, benefiting postal voters, in particular those overseas and service personnel based abroad, by allowing them more time to receive and return their postal vote.