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Millions rushed to register for General Election 2017 - but half need not have bothered

Overworked election officials call for changes to voter registration

According to the official statistics more than two-and-a-half million people rushed to register to vote between the election being called in April and the cut-off point on May 22.

This, many reported could have a dramatic effect on turnout and, as most of those registering were under 35, see the previously dominating impact of the grey vote weakened.

On the final deadline day, May 22, saw the main surge as 622,389 logged on to the Government website and filled in the form. Again three-quarters of these were younger voters.

In Birmingham, Britain’s youngest city remember, the final day figure was 9,571. There were a further 20,000 registrations over the preceding weekend.

Jonathan Brady/PA Wire
Prime Minister Theresa May and her husband Philip leave after casting their votes in the General Election at a polling station in the village of Sonning, Berkshire.

But this last minute surge is not entirely what it seems.

According to Birmingham City Council about 50 per cent of those last minute voters were already registered.

And in other parts of the country the figure was even higher - Jo Miller the chief executive of Doncaster council reported 69 per cent already registered - 1,259 applications out of 1,827.

The problem has increased since the introduction of individual voter registration in the run up to the 2015 election - when the outdated idea of the head of a household registering all under their roof was ended.

It seems some did not realise that if they’d registered for previous votes, as many did for last year’s EU referendum, then you are automatically registered for this general election.

Only those who have never been eligible to vote, have moved house or recently come of age need to have worried.

Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn after casting his vote in the General Election at a polling station in Pakeman school in Islington, north London.

Instead those who were not sure, had completely forgotten or mislaid their polling cards signed up just to be on the safe side.

The side effect was election officials, who were already overworked arranging polling stations, counting venues and staff at short notice after the calling of the snap election, had to sift through thousands of unnecessary registration requests.

That Doncaster chief executive Jo Miller, who was incidentally earlier this year linked with the job running Birmingham , tweeted: “There must be a better way of doing this.” And was supported by her counterparts from across the country who are now leading the charge for change.

She has called for the Government to provide a way for citizens to double check if they are registered. In other quarters there are calls for mandatory voter registration.

Whatever the solution it is clear the system as it stands is flawed - leading to this indecent and wasteful panic in the middle of an election campaign.

When the dust has settled on this general election it is something Parliament working with local councils - across its party political benches - should at look at and reform.

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