By Emmeline Saunders
Young people and those from black and minority ethnic communities could miss out on voting for the next government because they are not on the electoral register, according to the Electoral Commission (EC).
The independent watchdog has published a report which found more than half (56 per cent) of young people aged 17-24 are unregistered and 31 per cent of people with black or minority ethnic backgrounds are not on the register.
The performance assessment also found 40 per cent of Electoral Registration Offices (EROs) are not doing enough to promote registration within their local communities.
Chair of the EC Jenny Watson said: "A UK general election can be called at any time, and there might only be a few days to register to vote in time, once it has been called. Anyone who isn't sure if they are registered should visit aboutmyvote.co.uk now."
The main reason for non-registration was people moving home in between annual canvasses, the report suggested. Electoral Registration officers update the register every year through canvasses which take place in the autumn. The completeness of the register could fall by ten percentage points in between canvasses, the report found.
London and other metropolitan areas have seen a decline in voter registration, and the report suggested 3.5 million eligible voters were not registered at the time of the 2001 Census.
With perhaps just over two months until the general election, voters may have less than a fortnight to register to vote once the polling date has been announced by the prime minister.
People can register to vote up to 11 days before an election, meaning if the general election is to be held on Thursday 6 May, the deadline to register will be Tuesday 20 April.
Ms Watson called on the next parliament to employ a joined-up approach to delivering electoral registration across the country to ensure it meets the electorate's needs.
She also highlighted the discrepancy between the annual canvass in the autumn and the generally accepted timetable for elections, which is usually in the spring.