Record number of voters signed up for 2017 general election – but some may have voted TWICE
A record 46.8million people were registered to vote in the 2017 general election, figures have revealed – the highest total in history.
More than two thirds (69%) of 2.9million applications after Theresa May called the snap poll were by people under 35, the Electoral Commission said.
But the watchdog has called for urgent changes to the electoral register after finding between 30% and 70% of those applications were duplicates by people already signed up.
And it warned it was “troubling some voters appear to have admitted voting more than once” – a crime that carries a £5,000 fine.
In its first report on the election, the watchdog said it received 1,013 e-mails from the public and 38 letters from MPs about concerns people voted twice.
Although there was “so far a lack of evidence of widespread abuse”, the Commission said “a number of people” boasted about voting twice on social media.
The watchdog has been “providing advice” to police forces about how to investigate such cases, including comparing marked copies of the electoral register used in polling stations.
Even though it is an offence to vote twice, people like students are legally allowed to be registered in more than one place.
The Commission said a key problem is that the UK has one ‘register to vote’ website, but 381 local election registers which aren’t joined up.
That means it is difficult for people to check if they are already registered and difficult for councils to sift through applications.
The Commission recommended setting up a website that will allow people to check in future whether they are signed up.
It would also be “helpful” to create a system for comparing 381 registers to check for duplicates, the Commission said.
Despite the problems, around 500,000 more people were registered for the June 8 poll than at the 2015 general election, the Commission said.
This took the electorate to 46.8 million, the largest so far, and turnout was the highest since Tony Blair ‘s landslide at 68.8%.
Young voters are said to have fuelled Labour support after leader Jeremy Corbyn said some “worked on” their own families to persuade them to back him.
Electoral Commission chairman Sir John Holmes said the record sign-ups showed “the UK’s strong tradition of democratic engagement”.
But he added: “If we are to keep pace with modern habits and practice in a digital world, the electoral registration system must continue to evolve, and consider innovative solutions such as direct or automatic enrolment processes.
“These have the potential to deliver significant improvements to the accuracy and completeness of electoral registers as well as efficiencies for local authorities and the public purse.”
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