Quarkside

15/05/2012

IER: Matching Mayhem

The Cabinet Office recently published a number of papers on the  Introduction of the Electoral Registration and Administration Bill.  With barely a third of electors bothering to vote in local elections, what is the likely impact of any new processes in increasing the number of voters?  It does not feature in any of the documents.  Reducing fraud and increasing accuracy seems to be the driver – not democratic accountability.

  • It is a widely held view that the current system for registration is vulnerable to fraud and a public perception that this allows electoral fraud to occur.
  • Individual Electoral Registration (IER) should therefore improve the accuracy of the register and allow people to register in different ways. 

The preferred option is to pre-populate the electoral register with electors who can be validated against public data sources in 2014/15 and then require the remaining electorate, future house movers, and new voters to register (and have their registration validated) from 2014/15 onwards.

As previously reported by Quarkside, the scary part is the data matching against public data sources by 400+ local authority Electoral Registration Officers (EROs). “…confirmation is expected to pre-populate the register with 57% of the eligible electorate“, leaving 43% to be found by other means.  This assumption is derived from the 2012 Electoral Commission report on Data matching schemes.  Delving deeper into this, we find a startling recommendation that

  • The pilots did not follow processes, in terms of the IT systems and matching arrangements, which would be used for nationwide data matching. The evaluation cannot therefore draw conclusions about how the costs of these pilots would translate to a national roll-out.

Not only that, the poor quality of the matching data showed:

  • … the average match in the pilot areas using Department for Work and Pensions data was 66%.

And everybody knows, the highest costs are the result of solving poor data quality problems.  Has this been factored into the Cabinet Office calculations.

  • The process, as tested in these pilots, was labour intensive with significant work required to analyse the data. Those involved felt that the level of work required would not be sustainable in the future.

The prognosis is not good – but we shall battle on regardless of all the warnings emanating from Local Government EROs and computer service departments.  We need a secure, consistent, governance framework that can be followed by all Councils – at a price the nation can afford.

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