Confirmation Live Run (Scotland)

Electoral Commission Committee written statement – made on 26th November 2014.

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Photo of Gary Streeter Gary Streeter Conservative, South West Devon

(Representing the Speaker’s Committee on the Electoral Commission): The Electoral Commission has today published a report containing an analysis of the confirmation live run (CLR) exercise that took place in Scotland in September 2014, and which forms the first stage in the transition to individual electoral registration (IER). The report also summarises general progress with the implementation of IER in Scotland to date. The Commission reported separately on progress with the transition in England and Wales in October 2014.

The transition to IER in Scotland began in September 2014, following the referendum on independence. The transition is therefore taking place against a background of unprecedented levels of public engagement and participation, which led to a welcome increase in registration levels in Scotland.

Confirmation is the process of matching existing electors’ details against the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) database as well as against locally held data to identify which electors could be transferred automatically to the new IER registers, and which ones could not and therefore need to re-register. However, no existing elector will be removed from the registers ahead of the general election as a result of the change to IER.

Overall, the report finds that the results of the live run are largely in line with the results from the test of the confirmation process in 2013 and are broadly consistent with the results in England and Wales.

In Scotland approximately 3.6 million electoral register entries were matched, the majority of which could be directly transferred onto the new IER registers. This corresponds to 86% of the total number of records on the electoral registers sent for matching. A total of 589,000 could not be positively matched with the DWP database or through local data matching and could therefore not be automatically transferred onto the new IER registers. EROs in Scotland will now be focusing their time and resources on targeting the 14% of existing electors who could not be matched, as well as those not currently on the registers at all.

Subsequent to the confirmation process, EROs have been writing out to all electors who could not be automatically transferred to the new IER registers and inviting them to re-register. The Electoral Commission ran a public awareness campaign between 16 October and 13 November to ensure that electors knew to expect a letter telling them how they were affected by the change and if they needed to take any action. This supported targeted engagement activity carried out locally by EROs.

The Commission’s analysis of the test of the confirmation process in 2013 indicated that there are particular groups who are less likely to be matched with DWP data including students, young people and those renting from a private landlord. This is likely to be because they change address more frequently than the rest of the population and their details held by DWP are therefore less likely to be up to date. Encouragingly, the Commission’s analysis of the live results suggests that local data matching helps to mitigate this problem to an extent, with some of these groups being able to be matched against local data sources such as council tax databases.

As part of the change to IER in Great Britain, for the first time, people have been able to register to vote online. The Commission reports that the take-up of online registration has been positive since the system launched in England and Wales in June and in September in Scotland. Over 2.4 million applications to register have so far been submitted through the online system across Great Britain.

The Electoral Commission will continue to monitor the transition to IER closely. The Commission will report again on progress in Scotland in April 2015 following the publication of the revised registers by 2 March 2015. A further report on progress across Great Britain will be published in the summer of 2015, which will include the Commission’s assessment of whether it would be appropriate to bring forward the end of the transition to IER from December 2016 to December 2015.

The Electoral Commission has also produced a data visualisation tool which is available on its website and will be e-mailed to all MPs. This allows Members of Parliament to see the confirmation rate for their constituency and for the electoral wards within it. It also includes data by local authority area. Copies of the Commission’s report have been placed in the Library of the House and it is also available on the Commission’s website at: www.electoralcommission.org.uk