The spill-over and displacement effects of implementing election administration reforms: Introducing individual electoral registration in Britain

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The UK government intends to replace household electoral registration with individual electoral registration (IER). This article assesses the likely effects of the reform using an innovative methodology. A thematic analysis of extensive qualitative interviews with local election officials, conceived as ‘street-level bureaucrats’ responsible for implementing elections, was undertaken. Their local knowledge provides evidence that IER might improve the security of the registration process. However, it is likely to lead to a considerable decline in levels of electoral registration which might be highest amongst the young, elderly and minority populations; is a more resource-intensive method of compiling the electoral register; will pose new issues with data and technology for election officials; and, is likely to have a number of further ‘spill-over’ effects on other aspects of election administration, such as the cutting of other services. The article encourages further research using the local knowledge of street-level bureaucrats to examine the ‘back-office’ effects of election administration reforms since they may further our understanding of the complexities and unintended consequences of institutional reforms which might be overlooked in quantitative studies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)281-305
Number of pages25
JournalParliamentary Affairs
Issue number2
Early online date25 Jun 2012
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2014

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