A number of major city councils have reported to LGC in the week before the election that they have experienced significant drops in their number of registered voters. This is despite election administrators expressing optimism that publicity campaigns by councils and the Electoral Commission have averted the worst of the feared fall in registered voters.
The change from registration by heads of households to individuals was enacted by the previous Labour government and takes full effect for today’s general and local elections.
There had been fears people would ‘fall off’ registers, in particular those in urban areas with transient populations who might not know they needed to register personally.
In a snapshot survey of councils by LGC, Manchester City Council said it had registered 364,973 people across the city, compared with 381,081 on the last register produced under the old system, a decrease of 4.2%.
Canvassers had visited more than 100,000 properties in the past nine months to do on-the-spot registrations, the council said.
Ceredigion CC, named by the commission last winter among councils with the steepest falls in registration, said it now had 54,985 people registered, compared with 55,806 in May 2014, a 1.4% decrease. Cardiff City Council experienced a fall of nearly 6%, but Birmingham and Brighton & Hove city councils both experienced rises.
The Electoral Commission warned last winter that some seven million people might be unregistered.
Since then, more than 5.2 million people have applied to register online as well as an unknown number on paper. Exact figures will be known shortly after the election.
John Turner, chief executive of the Association of Electoral Administrators, said: “I’ve done a straw poll of 25-30 of my members and without exception they have more people on their registers now than they had a year ago.
“It’s the result of effective work to raise awareness, and interest in a close election.”
Lambeth LBC’s electoral and civic services manager Jamie Baker told LGC the council was in “a very healthy position”. He said the greatest impact on the register had been interest in the general election, as “in the last six weeks before the deadline for registration there were around 16,000 new registrations.”