‘Silent crisis’ in UK electoral processes revealed

As speculation about an early general election gathers momentum, a new report from the University of East Anglia has highlighted ‘persistent, serious problems in the way that elections are run’.

The report from UEA’s school of Political, Social and International Studies says that ‘sticking plasters have papered over cracks in a Victorian system in need of repair, but there is a risk that the banks could break’, with report author Toby James saying that providing a website so people can check if they are registered could go some way to solving the problem.

The Missing Millions Still Missing paper also says that registering young people in schools and universities, providing a centralised complaints system and allowing citizens to vote at any polling station could also be explored as solutions.

James said: “There are persistent, serious problems in the way that elections are run. Eight million are not correctly registered to vote. This problem has been growing over several decades, but it was made worse by recent reforms that now require everyone to register individually. It is particularly problematic for recent movers and private renters, Commonwealth and EU nationals, non-white ethnicities, lower socioeconomic groups, citizens with mental disabilities and young people.

“An overwhelming reason why people are not registered is because they think they are. They assume that public bodies are co-ordinated and clever enough to share information. If I pay council tax, why am I not registered? The public assume that this information is passed seamlessly onto the people handing out ballots in polling stations.

“But such common sense doesn’t exist.  Rather than having one single electoral register, there are 372. When you pay your council tax, are issued a driver’s licence or given your national insurance number, this information is not passed on to the people preparing for a future election. Instead, we are all asked to register individually – and valuable resources are spent reminding us to do so.”

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