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UK Electoral Statistics frequently asked questions

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Frequently asked questions about the Office for National Statistics' (ONS's) electoral statistics for the United Kingdom.

A more detailed study on registration ‘Electoral registration in 2000’ can be found on the Electoral Commission website.

 

What are Electoral Statistics?

Electoral statistics are annual counts of the number of people who are registered on electoral rolls and are therefore entitled to vote.

There are two main classifications of voters ‘Parliamentary Electorate’ and ‘European\Local Government Electorate’.

Eligibility criteria for the two classifications are different. (See below for more details).

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Who is entitled to vote?

Commonwealth citizens, British citizens and citizens of the Republic of Ireland are eligible to vote in any election if they are resident in the area on the qualifying date and will be aged 18 or over during the electoral register’s currency.

Other people are entitled to vote in some elections. This is covered in the sections below.

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What is a parliamentary elector?

These are individuals who are entitled to vote in parliamentary elections for Westminster and who meet the residence qualification.

These include overseas electors but exclude Peers and European Union citizens.

Attainers are also included in these figures.

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What is a European\local government elector?

These are individuals who are entitled to vote in European and local government elections and who meet the residence qualification.

These include Peers and European Union citizens.

Attainers are also included in these figures

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What is an attainer?

This is the term used to describe a person who attains the age of 18 during the currency of the register (i.e. 1 December 2013 to 1 December 2014 for the latest register), and is entitled to vote at an election on or after his or her eighteenth birthday.

It should be noted that due to differing administrative practices, it is possible that the statistics for attainers may include some people who attain the age of 18 outside of the specified period.

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What is a Commonwealth citizen?

These are individuals who are nationals of any country within the Commonwealth of Nations. Only qualifying Commonwealth citizens are entitled to vote in UK elections, these are individuals who do not require leave to remain in the UK, or currently have valid leave to remain.

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What is a Commonwealth citizen?

These are individuals who are nationals of any country within the Commonwealth of Nations. Only qualifying Commonwealth citizens are entitled to vote in UK elections, these are individuals who do not require leave to remain in the UK, or currently have valid leave to remain.

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What is the residence qualification?

For England, Wales and Scotland the residence qualification requires a person to be normally living at the address on the qualifying date, even if temporarily absent.

People having more than one place of residence, such as students, may therefore be included on more than one register but are only entitled to vote in one constituency in a general election.

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What is an overseas elector?

Overseas electors are not resident in the United Kingdom, but must previously have been resident in the UK and included in the electoral register (unless they were too young to register) within the last 15 years.

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Are overseas electors included in those registered to vote in a parliamentary election?

Yes, overseas electors are registered in the same parliamentary constituency as before they went abroad.

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Are overseas electors included in those registered to vote in a local government election?

Yes, overseas electors are registered in the same parliamentary constituency as before they went abroad.

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What is a service elector?

These are members of HM Armed Forces and their spouses, plus Crown servants and British Council employees and their spouses residing abroad.

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What is list cleaning?

This is the removal of registrations where individuals have not responded to the electoral canvass for at least the past two years.

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What is Rolling Registration?

This was introduced in 2001 and means that Electoral Registration Officers update registers on a continuous basis.

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What is Individual Electoral Registration (IER)?

The current electoral registration system in Great Britain is at household level, with one person in the household returning a registration form on behalf of all eligible voters resident at that address.

The Electoral Registration and Administration Act 2013 allows for a new Individual Electoral Registration (IER) system, which is planned to be introduced from summer 2014.

Under the new system, voters will register separately, each providing their own unique identifiers, such as National Insurance number and date of birth, so that their information can be verified.

Further information on IER is available from the Cabinet Office website.

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What date do the electoral statistics refer to?

The electoral statistics are based on the electoral registers published by Electoral Registration Officers following the annual registration canvass, and are usually dated 1 December.

However, there have been some recent exceptions to this: 2012 electoral registers for England and Wales (excluding London) were published on 16 October 2012; 2013 electoral registers for England were published on 17 February 2014; and 2013 electoral registers for Scotland and Wales were published on 10 March 2014.

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Why were some electoral registers published in October 2012?

Owing to the Police and Crime Commissioners (PCC) elections for England and Wales held in November 2012, the annual voter canvass was conducted early and new electoral registers published on 16 October 2012, rather than 1 December 2012. 

This change was to ensure that the electoral register was as complete and accurate as possible prior to the elections.  With no PCC elections in Scotland, Northern Ireland or London, the annual registers here were compiled to the 1 December.

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Why were some electoral registers published in February/March 2014?

To make sure that the electoral register was as complete and accurate as possible ahead of the introduction of Individual Electoral Registration (IER) in summer 2014, the annual publication of electoral registers in Great Britain, normally due on 1 December 2013, was delayed until spring 2014.

Electoral registers were published on 17 February 2014 in England and 10 March 2014 in Scotland and Wales. Registers for Northern Ireland were published as usual on 1 December 2013.

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How are the data for the tables derived?

For England and Wales, the tables of electoral statistics are derived from data supplied to ONS by Electoral Registration Officers at the end of December each year.

Data for Scotland are similarly collected by council areas and collated by National Records of Scotland (NRS). Data for Northern Ireland are collected by the Electoral Office for Northern Ireland (EONI).

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Is information on electors available by age and sex?

No.

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Has legislation affected these numbers?

Yes, on 1 May 2004 the European Union was expanded from fifteen to twenty-five countries. (However, citizens of Cyprus and Malta were already entitled to vote as Commonwealth citizens). This increased the number of people eligible to vote in European/local elections.

Further expansions of the European Union in 2007 (Bulgaria and Romania) and 2013 (Croatia) may also have had some impact on the numbers.

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What boundaries are the tables for parliamentary electors based on?

Electoral data are usually collected on the boundaries that are in place for the reference year.  For 1 December 2008, data were collected on the both the old and the new constituency boundaries for England and Northern Ireland that came into effect at the General Election in May 2010.  From 1 December 2009 onwards, data were only collected on the new boundaries. 

The new parliamentary constituency boundaries for Wales came into effect at the ordinary election to the Assembly on 3 May 2007.

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Can I calculate electoral registration rates using the ONS mid-year population estimates?

The electoral statistics are sometimes compared with the population estimates in order to provide an approximation for the percentage of people who are registered to vote. The following points should be noted when interpreting these percentages:

  • The resident population aged 18 and over is not the same as the number of people eligible to vote; not everyone who is usually resident is entitled to vote (foreign citizens from outside of the EU and Commonwealth, prisoners, etc. are not eligible).

  • There is inevitably some double counting of the registered electorate as people who have more than one address may register to vote in more than one place. Also electoral registration officers vary in how quickly they remove people from the registers after they have moved away from an area or after they have died.

  • These factors have a differential impact from area to area. 

A more detailed study on registration ‘Electoral registration in 2000’ can be found on the Electoral Commission Website.

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Where can I go for further information?

In the first place contact pop.info@ons.gsi.gov.uk or call 01329 444661.  Additional information on eligibility and electoral law can be found on the Electoral Commission website. 

Information on the quality of the Electoral Statistics, including relevance, accuracy, timeliness & punctuality, accessibility & clarity, comparability and coherence, can be found in the Quality and Methodology Information for Electoral Statistics.

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