There are fears that hundreds of thousands of voters in Wales won’t be able to vote in a snap election because they’re not on the electoral roll.
The Electoral Commission’s first major study of the ‘completeness’ of the electoral register in three years reveals that between 410,000 and 560,000 people in Wales who should be able to vote are missing.
The rates of completeness and accuracy put Wales below the level of the rest of the United Kingdom.
Unless those missing from the register sign up soon after a snap election is announced, they risk being disenfranchised, the ERS warn.
Renters and young people in Wales are particularly likely to be excluded, they said.
The Electoral Reform Society are calling for moves towards automatic registration to deal with the “hidden crisis of under-registration”.
A universal voter registration systems like Canada, Finland and Belgium, where people can sign up whenever they engage with government bodies, or are automatically opted in, would be preferable they say.
“These figures should sound the alarm for anyone who cares about democracy,” Jess Blair, Director of Electoral Reform Society Cymru, said.
“Hundreds of thousands of potential voters in Wales are effectively missing from the electoral roll, representing a major barrier to political equality and democratic engagement.
“The worrying reality is that any snap election will be on the basis of a flawed franchise.
“You shouldn’t have to opt into 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.
“The Welsh Government has been scoping automated registration in their 2018 consultation on local government reform but has limited powers in this area. That means it’s now time for the UK government to legislate to ensure universal registration so that everyone has a stake in our democracy.
“The gaps in registration are creating major inequalities in our elections, with young people and renters particularly affected. Parties must respond with action, and start to bring in the ‘missing millions’.
“Let’s ensure the next election does not exclude huge swathes of our nation and instead represents the gold standard for participation.”