An exercise to redraw the United Kingdom’s electoral map started on 24 February with publication of the number of people registered as electors on 1 December 2015. These figures determine the number of parliamentary constituencies allocated to each of the four countries and across England’s nine regions for the next general election (due in 2020), plus the size and nature of each constituency.
These allocations, and the subsequent redrawing of the map of individual constituencies, will use rules designed to ensure equality of representation across constituencies. They were introduced by the 2011 Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act, which also fixed the number of constituencies at 600 (replacing the current 650). The Boundary Commissions’ initial implementation of those rules would have produced a new set of constituencies by October 2013, to be used for the 2015 general election. That exercise was halted by parliament in January 2013, however; it is now being restarted with no change to the rules.
The registered parliamentary electorate on 1 December 2015 was 44,722,004 – a decline of some 603,074 over the figure for the same date in 2014. Although some two million people who had not been registered by 1 December 2014 had done so in the run-up to the 2015 general election, many had clearly not re-registered when the annual canvass was held some five months later. In addition, the government’s decision to bring forward the switch to individual electoral registration at the end of 2015, rather than waiting for another year for registration officers to ensure that the roll was as complete and accurate as possible, meant that perhaps as many as 600,000 people who would otherwise have been retained on the register were removed.
Research by the Electoral Commission and others suggests that many of those so excluded (plus many of those who registered for the 2015 election but did not then re-register later) are concentrated among the young (especially students), ethnic minorities, and flat-dwellers (mainly renters), who are concentrated in many of the country’s inner city areas. Their absence from the 1 December 2015 electoral roll will have had a significant – if difficult to establish with hard numbers – impact on the geography of constituency allocation. Basically, however, the cities – especially London – will probably get several fewer seats than otherwise might have been the case; many of the current constituencies with large student populations have experienced substantial declines.