The electoral roll, or register, lists all those who have registered to vote in a certain area. Its purpose is to aid the electoral process and prevent fraud.
The right to vote
The right to vote belongs to all British citizens over the age of eighteen. If a teenager will reach the age of eighteen before the next revision of the register, then they are permitted to register on the electoral roll. British citizens living overseas may continue to register to vote for up to fifteen years since they last registered at a UK address.
Mental patients’ right to vote
Voluntary patients are able to register on the electoral roll at their former address: they can either vote by post or go to the polling station. For detained patients, their right to register (other than at where they are currently detained) depends on where they lived before they were detained. The longer the length of their detention, the less likely it becomes that a previous residence will be accepted and so a patient will not be able to register on the electoral roll.
The Human Rights Act 1998
Protocol 1, Article 3 of the Human Rights Act 1998 does not create a right to any specific system of election (examples being ‘first past the post’ and proportional representation which both comply with the Act).
Article 3 can be used in relation to the right to vote by people who find it difficult to register for the vote, such as the homeless.
How and where the electoral roll is compiled
Forms sent out annually to every house compile the electoral roll. This register is then held at the electoral registration office, which, in England and Wales, will be at the local council. Scotland has electoral registration offices both in local councils and separate whereas Northern Ireland has a central government-run electoral registration office.
What the electoral roll includes
The electoral roll is available to view in two formats: full and ‘edited’. The full version is the one that is used for voting and copies are available for use by particular groups such as credit reference agencies and political parties. However, it is a legal right for anyone to view the full version, under supervised inspection.
The full version includes this information about the voter:
- Voter number – two letters for the polling district then a unique number
- Name and address
- Date of birth – if the voter will reach the age of eighteen within a year of the electoral roll being published
- If a postal vote was requested
- If they exercised their right to vote (recorded after the election)
The edited version does not include those voters who have chosen to ‘opt out’ and copies can be purchased by anyone, unlike the full version.
The Electoral Administration Act 2006
This act, introduced by Harriet Harman, was passed on 11 July 2006. It provided the legislative framework necessary for setting up ‘CORE’, which is the Co-ordinated Online Record of Electors, the aim of which is to coordinate the electoral roll across different areas.
Other important provisions in terms of the electoral roll include creating new criminal offences for failing to supply or supplying false electoral details; allowing voters to register anonymously as long as they pass a safety test and providing for the introduction of signature and date of birth checks on postal votes.