Thank you for contacting me about Individual Electoral Registration (IER) and Early Day Motion 333. As a Government Minister, I am precluded, by convention, from signing any Early Day Motions as doing so is likely to breach the Ministerial Code’s rules on collective responsibility.
IER is an essential part of our plan to tackle electoral fraud, the importance of which was highlighted all too clearly by the flawed elections in Tower Hamlets last year. Under the old system the “head of household” could register all those in a property with no ID needed. This is outdated and presents an unacceptable risk of fraud. Under IER, each individual now has to apply individually and provide a date of birth and national insurance number which are then verified against Government records to check the applicant is who they say they are.
Since it was introduced last year, IER has confirmed 96 out of every 100 electors as genuine. There were over 400,000 more entries on the registers used for the General Election in May than when we introduced IER a year earlier.
The remaining 4 out of every 100 entries are being targeted intensively ahead of December to confirm whether they are real voters, or ‘ghost’ entries on the register. Ghost entries make fraud more likely and distort the accuracy of our electoral rolls, so it is right that the Government has allocated £700,000 to local authorities with over 5 per cent of their registers still comprising unverified electors, and will be making further funding available to local authorities who make the case for additional activities to help them target any remaining ‘ghost’ or unverified entries.
By the end of the IER transition, unverified entries will have been contacted at least 9 times, including letters and personal visits. The chances of these remaining entries being real people rather than ghosts is vanishingly small. Yet as long as they remain on the register, there is a real risk that they could be exploited by fraudsters seeking to influence the outcome of elections.
I recognise your concerns about electors who have not yet been registered. The answer to this is a strong and effective registration drive and I know we are currently looking at ways that this can be improved.
For those who are eligible but have not yet signed up with IER, online registration means that registering to vote is now easier than ever before. The process takes around 3 minutes and 77 per cent of all applications have been made online since the service was launched. Online registration is particularly popular among some groups who are typically under-registered, such as young people.
These changes bring us into line with all other modern democracies and will ensure the highest standards of integrity at future elections.