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Unexpected rise in voter registrations

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More than half a million people have applied to register to vote in the upcoming local elections, the Electoral Commission has revealed, 36% more than expected.

In the run up to this week’s poll 570,000 people applied to join the electoral register across England and Northern Ireland, compared to a target or 400,000 in England and 27,000 in Northern Ireland, the commission said.

The figures do not mean the electoral register will grow by this amount as some applicants may already be on the register. A spokesperson for the Electoral Commission said it takes two weeks for electoral registration officers (EROs) to shift out duplicate applications, but added that they were “very pleased” that so many people have applied to register to vote.

Its target is for 280,000 new voters on the electoral role for the local elections.

During its campaign, the Electoral Commission used a range of multimedia advertising channels, including TV and radio ads, outdoor, social media (Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram), digital advertising and podcasts, which the spokesperson said enabled them to maximise their reach to a “wide range” of eligible voters.

Craig Westwood, the Electoral Commission’s director of communications and research, said: “Our campaigns are important, as we know the general level of public awareness around registration is not universally high. Our most recent assessment – a pre-poll tracking survey in England ahead of the 2 May local elections – found that only 11% of people know that the deadline is two to three weeks before the poll. 28% had no idea of when the deadline was at all.”

Altogether, 8, 374 council seats are up for re-election across 248 councils and five executive mayors.

Conservative peer and local elections expert Lord Hayward predicted at the weekend that the Conservatives will lose 800 councillors compared with results four years ago as voters will punish the party for the Brexit stalemate, while Labour could gain 300 seats and the Liberal Democrats 500.

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