The Government is being urged to tap into “trusted public data” to ensure that millions of people do not lose the right to vote in both national and local elections.
In the first detailed look at the health of electoral registers in three years, an Electoral Commission study has found that up to 17% of eligible voters - around 9.4 million people - are not listed on the Electoral Register at their correct address. Meanwhile 11% of entries - up to 5.6 million people - are inaccurate.
To tackle the problem, ministers should start using “reliable” sources of the information that other Government departments hold, the Commission says.
For example, when a motorist notifies the DVLA of change of address for their driver’s licence, that data should be shared automatically to update the Electoral Register. In the same way, young people could be enrolled on to the Register when they apply for a National Insurance card.
The Commission said that younger people and private renters were the most likely to be missing, or wrongly registered, potentially skewing election results. Under 60% of private renters were found to be correctly signed up, compared to 91% who own their houses.
Only 71% of young people aged between 18 and 34 are accurately listed, far lower than the 94% of people aged 65 and over.
Electoral Commission chair Sir John Holmes said: “Better use of public data could hold the key to modernising the electoral registration process. We know that when people move house, registering to vote may not be a priority.
“Giving electoral administrators access to reliable and trusted public data would help them more easily identify people who have moved and may be eligible to register to vote.
“Being able to change your Electoral Registration details while, for example, updating your driving licence could be another way of making it easier for people to ensure they are registered.”
At present, individuals are responsible for ensuring their details are up-to-date on the Electoral Register, with local authorities writing to residents to check.
Automatic registration is already used in Canada, Australia, Denmark and Germany, and it has been reported that the Labour Party is looking into the potential of switching to the system in the UK.