Monday 19 April 2010

Registering to Vote

Tomorrow is the last day for registering to vote in the 2010 General Election. In the UK, in theory, everyone should be registered. Every year the Electoral Registration Officer for the area (usually the District/Borough Council) sends to every residential property a form which the head of household is required to fill in and return. Failure can result in a fine of up to £1000. In practice a number of people fail to return their forms. Electoral Registration Officers do seek to chase up unreturned forms - and much effort is put into getting as accurate an electoral roll as possible. However this is an impossible task. People move homes during the year. It is now possible to have your name added after the annual canvass (hence tomorrow's cut off date), but registration is often not the first priority. Some people try to avoid being registered - out of fear that they may be traced by creditors or others. The Poll Tax of the late 1980s encouraged many people to get into the habit of not registering.

When the register is published, it comes in two forms. "Anyone can look at the full version of the register under supervision but it can only be passed on for certain purposes. These are electoral purposes, law enforcement and by credit reference agencies. Use by credit reference agencies is only to check your name and address if you are applying for credit and to help stop money laundering." A partial version can be bought by anyone and used for any purpose - but "you can choose not to be on it by ticking the opt out box on registration form."

In the UK you register as an elector - but do not, as in the US, have the option of registering as a voter for a particular party. In the US this is important for determining eligibility for voting in primaries.

Only people on the electoral register can vote - and unless you have a postal vote - you may only vote at the specified polling station (which is why it is important to advise the Electoral Registration Officer of a change of address).

For further information you can access the Electoral Commission's website about the electoral register here.

If you haven't yet registered go to this site now. Tuesday 20th April is the last day!!!