The Electoral Commission have released a study by NOP into how many people in London aren’t actually registered to vote. NOP found 20% of people in London between 18 and 25 weren’t registered and 27% of people between 25 and 34 weren’t. In comparison, only 5% of over 65s and 8% of 55-64s are unregistered.

It looks as though these are mostly likely to be disproportionately votes that would otherwise go to Ken Livingstone. Older people are the most pro-Boris group and registration also tends to be lower amongst people in rented accomodation and people from ethnic minorities – a mainstay of Ken’s support.

Some polls – most notably Ipsos MORI’s last poll for Unison – did ask whether people were registered to vote and excluded those who weren’t, but this doesn’t actually go that far to addressing the question because it assumes people who aren’t on the register know they aren’t. The NOP study cross-references the answers they got with the electoral register, and found that 16% of respondents who thought they were registered weren’t actually on it.

Two days to go. Candidates, as ever, are here and polls are here

22 Responses to “Will poor registration affect the London race?”

  1. Given that local authorities have a duty to ensure an accurate register of voters, this finding is truly appalling. I appreciate that it is difficult to manage a register in a big city but that really isn’t an excuse for failing to follow up unreturned registration cards, employ camvassers to complete registrations and run active registration campaigns. All most councils seem to do is buy a couple of billboards which isn’t good enough.

    Just as a point of interest – in Spain and Italy new residents are required to register their address with local authorities and voter registration is managed at this point.

  2. Yes Simon it is appalling but until we know what has happened, useless councils or useless people or a mix of the two.

  3. Why is it compulsory to have the right to vote? It does not mean that you must vote… Why is it not centrally held?

  4. OT: I’ve not seen any comments on the new look website. It’s excellent!

  5. That should read ‘why is it not compulsory to have the right to vote?’ I think it is legitimate if people decide not to vote but I think it should be forced that people have the right to vote, as in compulsorily enrolled…

  6. Why is enrolment done locally? Surely it should be done on a national basis? That makes it easy to deal with absentee voting…

  7. Registration has to be local – doing it any other way makes it impossible to police. The right to vote is universal which is why the authorities responsible for registration have a duty to ensure the accuracy of the register. Poor registration undermines democracy since it disenfranchises people – we do not have a US-style system where registration is an individual duty for this reason.

  8. I wonder why the youngest cohort (18 to 25) are less likely to register, 20% unregistered, while the next cohort (25 – 34) are even less likely to register (27% unregistered). Could it be that teenagers and young 20’s still mainly live at home and get registered by their parents, while the next group have left home, and are either less responsible in this regard than their parents, or else didn’t know much about registering because their parents did it for them?

    This all looks like good news for Boris Johnson, since these unregistered people are more likely to live in rented accommodation, or live in inner London, or both, all groups who on the evidence of the opinion polls would be more likely to be Livingstone supporters.

  9. I think you’ve given the most plausible explanation already Clive!

  10. I think the analogy of London can also be said of the rest of the UK – but it does’nt surprise me / maybe Ken should have spent more time getting his voters registered than partying with dictators and terrorists !! Just a thought !

  11. Interestingly my wife got her citizenship last year. I put her down on the electoral rolls, but our local [Labour] authourity failed to send her a polling card.

    The good lady is currently relaxing in Serbia and Montenegro. [Don’t larf’!] You have to wonder if her vote will be mysteriously exercised on her behalf, all in the perceived good of our nation…. *(

  12. Fluffy,

    Not that it matters given where your wife is but you don’t need a poll card to vote. All you need is to be listed on the register – the poll card acts as a convenience to polling station staff and as a reminder to the voter. It has no other significance. However, it may be worth checking to see whether your local authority has followed through on your instructions and included her on the register.

  13. Simon Cooke,

    Thanks for you reply. Considering my wife is out-of-country and has not made any indication of her exercise of the vote, then I have to be concerned.

    As for the local authourity, why bother. Still waiting to find a local doctor…! :( [:off-topic]

  14. In my experience people who are not registered are not aware that they are not registered.

    The case for individual rather than ‘head of household’ based registration is beocming overwhelming

  15. Does this potentially hit YouGov more than the pollsters who weigh by likelihood of voting?

    After all, it seems sensible that there would be a corrolation between people who believe themselves highly likely to vote and being registered to do so.

    Or is this countered in some way by the fact that YouGov’s panel are generally more likely to vote than the average therefore it’s almost weighted by default?

  16. Fluffy,

    Two further points

    Who votes (but obviously now how they vote) is a matter of public record so you can check whether your wife’s vote has been personated.

    Although too late for this election (applications closed on 23rd April) you can obtain a proxy vote for a person out of the country. This is different and more secure than a postal vote in that the elector appoints someone to vote of their behalf.

    Oh and local councils may make a mess of registration but they don’t run the doctors!!


    Individual registration won’t address under-registration (I suspect it would increase) especially for attainers (see comment above from Clive Elliot). The argument for individual registration is that it prevents fraudulent registration not that it increases levels of registration.

    I go back to the fact that Council’s have a duty to complete the register and, in London at least are failing to do so.

  17. I can’t find the poll details on the Electoral Commission website, but if the poll is looking at “registered to vote at current address” then a lot of people will have moved house in the last year. Alternatively, a lot of people who have recently moved to London may still be registered at their old addresses. I presume you can now register during the year – but who bothers?

  18. Registration lasts for a full year – the fact of moving doesn’t negate the registration. The last set of electoral law changes introduced the idea of a ‘rolling register’ where changes to a register can take place throughout the year (in effect updated monthly).

    Some local authorities make an effort to register new residents as they move in (after all they will be giving the Council details of their new residency for reasons of paying council tax etc.).

  19. simon

    a move to individual registration would/should put a greater onus on local authorities to register people rather than just sending out a form to each household and sitting back waiting for them to come back

    it would be a more expensive system but changing would come with the demand for greater resources to sort registration out.

    Although it is a crime not to register (I think it may have changed) I am not aware of any one being fined for non registration.

  20. anyone seen any exit polling for the london elections yet.

  21. Aren’t you a day early Stuart?

  22. It isn’t a crime not to register, local councils have a duty to complete the register properly – the onus rests with the council. The failure here is systemic – Councils are as you put it ‘sitting back’ with the result that the registers are very poor. I would argue that 20%+ non-registration is maladministration and should result in action against the local authority.