The electoral register

Electoral Register and Open Register

Why there are 2 registers

Electoral Registration Officers keep two registers using information received from the public:

  • The Electoral Register
  • The Open Register (previously known as the Edited Register)

The Electoral Register lists the names and addresses of everyone who is registered to vote in public elections. it is used for electoral purposes such as making sure only eligible people can vote. It is also used for other limited purposes specified in law such as detecting crime, for example fraud, calling people for jury service and checking credit applications.

The Electoral Register

The use of the Electoral Register is heavily restricted by Statutory Regulations. It can only be given to, or used by, authorised persons including:-

  • Election staff, political parties, candidates and holders of elected office use the register for electoral purposes
  • Your local council and the British Library hold copies that anyone may look at under supervision. A copy is also held by the Electoral Commission, the Boundary Commissions (which set constituency boundaries for most elections) and the Office for National Statistics
  • We can use the register for duties relating to security, enforcing the law and preventing crime. The police and the security services can also use it for law enforcement
  • The register is used when calling people for jury service
  • Government departments may buy the register from local registration officers and use it to help prevent and detect crime. They can also use it to safeguard national security by checking the background of job applicants and employees
  • Credit reference agencies can buy the register. They help other organisations to check the names and addresses of people applying for credit. They also use it to carry out identity checks when trying to prevent and detect money laundering

It is a criminal offence for anyone to supply or use the register for anything else.

The Open Register

This is an extract of the Electoral Register, but is not used for elections.

It can be bought by any person, company or organisation. For example, it is used by businesses and charities to confirm name and addressee details. Your name and address will be included in the Open Register unless you ask for them to be removed. Removing your details from the Open Register would not affect your right to vote.

Users of the Open Register may include:

  • Businesses checking the identity and address details of people who apply for their services such as insurance, good hire and property rental, as well as when they shop online
  • Businesses selling age-restricted goods or services, such as alcohol and gambling online, to meet the rules on verifying the age of their customers
  • Charities and voluntary agencies, for example to help maintain contact information for those who have chosen to donate bone marrow and to help people separated by adoption to find each other
  • Charities, to help with fundraising and contacting people who have made donations
  • Debt-collection agencies when tracing people who have changed address without telling their creditors
  • Direct-marketing firms when maintaining their mailing lists
  • Landlords and letting agents when checking the identity of potential tenants
  • Local councils when identifying and contacting residents
  • Online directory firms to help users of the websites find people, such as when reuniting friends and families.
  • Organisations tracing and identifying beneficiaries of wills, pensions and insurance policies
  • Private-sector firms to verify details of job applicants

Your choice

The law allows anyone to buy a copy of the Open Register for a prescribed fee. This register has been in place since 2002. Before that date the full Electoral Register could be sold to anyone for a fee. Since 2002 electors have had to make a choice about whether to opt out of the Edited Register. All households were sent a canvass form every year listing everyone who was registered to vote. Each person on the form had to make their choice every year and tick a box on the form if they wanted to be opted out of the Edited Register.

From now on, your Open Register choice will continue until you tell us that you wish to change it. If you change address you would have to make a fresh registration application and Open Register choice.

If you wish to opt in or out please complete the application form and return to your local electoral registration office. 

Your personal information

We will only use the information you give us for electoral purposes. We will look after personal information securely and we will follow the Data Protection Act 1998. We will not give personal information about you and the other people in your household to anyone else or another organisation unless we have to by law.

 

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