Voter Registration: Principal Residence and Secondary Address

Electoral Commission Committee – in the House of Commons on 17th June 2021.

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Photo of Steven Baker Steven Baker Conservative, Wycombe

If the Commission will make an assessment of the potential merits of introducing a system for voter registration requiring a person to (a) indicate their principal residence allowing them to vote in parliamentary elections and (b) register a secondary address which would allow for voting in local elections only.

Photo of Chris Matheson Chris Matheson Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

Following the 2017 UK general election, the commission recommended that the UK Government should consider making just such a change to the registration system. It is possible for somebody to be lawfully registered to vote in more than one place. At local elections, such people are able to vote in each place in different elections. However, it is an offence to vote twice in a single election, such as in a parliamentary general election. The commission report in 2017 highlighted that requiring such voters to choose which area they will vote in at a UK parliamentary election could reduce the risk of electors voting twice. One practical issue is that we do not have one single national register, but lots of local registers held by individual registration officers.

Photo of Steven Baker Steven Baker Conservative, Wycombe

I am very grateful for that answer. Of course, this is a problem we have seen in Wycombe. I have seen evidence of it, which is why I raise it. On the point about a single national database, the House will remember that we had this conversation in relation to the NHS track and trace app. As a software engineer, may I, through the hon. Member, encourage the Electoral Commission to take the advice of expert software engineers on how such uniqueness could be assured on registrations without having a single national database?

Photo of Chris Matheson Chris Matheson Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

I am very grateful for that and I think the House is aware of the hon. Gentleman’s professional experience in this area. If he has solutions to suggest to the Commission, I could ask it to meet him to discuss what is possible.