What you don’t know about the electoral register

Group of people at a polling station for electoral voting

The electoral register (sometimes called the ‘electoral roll’) lists the names and addresses of everyone who’s registered to vote. Registering to vote may also be good for improving your credit score but there’s more to being on the electoral register than you may think. Let’s take a closer look at some of the questions you may have wanted to ask about the electoral register and what it can mean for you.

Who is eligible to vote?

Voting is open for the majority of people in the UK, if they fall within particular requirements. This is mainly to do with age and where you live (residency requirement), which means you can appear on the electoral register if you meet these needs. The government states that you should be registered to vote if you are:

  • of voting age - 18 years old on polling day
  • a British citizen
  • an Irish or EU citizen living in the UK
  • a qualifying Commonwealth citizen*
  • in Scotland or Wales all legally resident foreign nationals

*A qualifying Commonwealth citizen is someone who is resident in the UK and who has leave to remain in the UK or does not require leave to remain.

What is a residency requirement?

In order to be on the electoral register, you will need a permanent home address. This residency requirement means that a person can be added to the electoral register at a permanent address, even if they are living somewhere unlawfully. Further details to prove the person is a legal resident, renter or homeowner aren’t essential for voting. However, there are reasons why a permanent address might not be needed under the residency requirement. These are if a person is:

It is also possible to register to vote from two different addresses, although you only get one vote per election. This is especially handy for students who can register at their home address and that of their student accommodation but they will only be able to vote once.

Who checks if you’re on the electoral register?

Each year, Electoral Registration Offices (EROs) start the annual canvass from July. This means they contact households across the UK to make sure the information on the electoral register is correct. This can be done in several ways, and has included email, phone, a letter by post or a person going from door to door.

Can you be fined if you do not register?

If you have been asked to register to vote and are eligible, it is an offence that’s punishable with a fine if you don’t register. However, this can be appealed in special circumstances, such as long term illness leading to hospital stay, or if the voter has learning difficulties.

Can you opt out of the electoral register?

There are certain circumstances that can stop you from being able to vote, but these are very rare. For example, committing crimes involving electoral fraud. Also, Peers in the House of Lords are unable to vote in parliamentary elections. Remember, while you cannot opt out of the electoral register, you can opt out of the open register.

What is the open register?

The open register takes the collected data from the electoral register and is sold to companies for marketing purposes. It is not used for voting in parliamentary or local elections. You can opt out of the open register when registering to vote, or you can contact your local Electoral Registration Office to help. 

Am I allowed to vote by post?

If you believe you’ll be away from your registered polling station during an election or you simply prefer to vote by post, you can apply for a postal vote. You don’t need to give a reason why you’re applying for a postal vote, but people tend to use postal voting if they’re away on a specific voting day or if they’re frequently travelling, for example.

Do mortgage companies check the electoral register?

Being on the electoral register can be an important part of a credit check. It helps to confirm your identity and shows that you live at the address you have given on any credit application forms. Being on the electoral roll is just one of the many elements which contribute to your credit score and when making a credit application.  To find out more on improving your credit score, keeping good credit hygiene  and the importance of keeping personal financial details safe and secure please visit our Knowledge Centre.

This article was written on 25 May 2021; all information was correct at the time of writing.

For further information on voting and the electoral register, regularly check gov.uk.

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