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Hundreds of thousands of Scots incorrectly registered to vote

Image credit: Simon Clayson - Flickr

Hundreds of thousands of Scots incorrectly registered to vote

The Electoral Reform Society (ERS) has warned hundreds of thousands of Scots may miss out on voting in a snap general election, after new figures revealed between 630,000 and 890,000 eligible voters in Scotland are incorrectly registered.

The UK Electoral Commission study of “accuracy and completeness” of voting registers found 16 per cent of Scottish parliamentary registers and 17 per cent of local government registers were incomplete, as of December 2018.

The research also showed 13 per cent of Scotland parliamentary registers and 14 per cent of local government registers were inaccurate.

“The findings lead to an estimate of: between 630,000 and 890,000 people in Scotland who were eligible to be on the local government registers but were not correctly registered; between 400,000 and 745,000 inaccurate entries on the local government registers,” the commission said in its report.

While exact numbers of voters were unavailable for the parliamentary register, ERS said levels of “completeness” between local and parliamentary registers were “almost the same”.

From this ERS said it could “infer that hundreds of thousands of people are missing from the electoral roll for a snap election in Scotland.”

Urban areas are falling behind rural regions of Scotland in voter enrolments, with 18 per cent of urban area local government registers incomplete, compared to 11 per cent of rural areas.

Younger voters, aged between 18 and 34, were more likely to be incorrectly registered – with 32 per cent incomplete, three per cent higher than the Great Britain average.

The number of eligible Scottish parliamentary electors who were registered correctly decreased by 0.6 per cent between 2017 and 2018, and local government electors dropped by 0.4 per cent.

There was a drop in the number of parliamentary electors from 2017-18 in all UK nations, except Northern Ireland which had a 0.5 per cent increase.

ERS said the number of correctly registered voters had declined since 2014, despite 16 and 17-year-olds being enfranchised for local elections, and the population rising in that time.

ERS director of policy and research Jess Garland warned a snap general election “will be on the basis of a flawed franchise”, with the society calling for a move to automatic voter registration.

“These figures should sound the alarm for anyone who cares about democracy,” she said.

“Hundreds of thousands of potential voters in Scotland are effectively missing from the electoral roll, representing a major barrier to political equality and democratic engagement.

“You shouldn’t have to opt in to your right to vote. As the Electoral Commission says, we need to move towards automatic registration now, starting with being able to check you are registered online, and being able to register whenever you engage with government bodies or services.

“There’s widespread consensus on this - now it just needs to be done.”

ERS campaigns officer Alice Kinghorn-Gray called for the Scottish Government to “explore how it can use its powers to ensure everyone has a stake in our democracy”.

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