Registering to Vote – What You Need to Know

Electoral Reform Society,

Posted on the 5th February 2015

Our intrepid Scotland Campaigns and Research Officer Juliet Swann outlines what the new Individual Electoral Registration system means for you.

Last year a law was passed that changed how we register to vote in the UK. We used to allow the ‘head of household’ to register (or not register) everyone at that address. We are the only western democracy to still use this system. The new system means it’s up to each individual to register at their address, be that a shared address or not. Excitingly, you can now register online!!!! Not just using a paper form you have to print off and send to your registration office. Bonus no?

There are some knock on impacts to changing the system (obvs).

1) If your previous household registration data doesn’t ‘match up’ with other electronic data the registrar can access then because they haven’t been able to confirm you are who you are and live where you live they will need you to re-register (online, or by paper, and with your NI number).

2) Most people (me included, and my partner) do have enough other data and are automatically transferred to the new register.

3) If you aren’t – for whatever reason – you might have moved house, or you don’t have other data at your electoral register address – you’ll be asked to re-register.

4) Of course, if your registration is at a previous address, you may not receive this notification.

5) BUT, yay! Until December 2015 you stay on the register regardless. Even if you haven’t been matched, or re-registered. So. NO-ONE WHO IS CURRENTLY REGISTERED WILL LOSE THEIR VOTE IN THE GENERAL ELECTION IN MAY

6) And then, you know what, just call your local authority and ask if you’re registered, and if you aren’t, fill out the very straight forward online form. Or just fill it in anyway, they’ll figure it out.

7) If you are a student YOU CAN REGISTER AT YOUR HOME ADDRESS AND YOUR TERM TIME ADDRESS so go ahead and do that. Just don’t vote more than once, that’s illegal.

8) If you are homeless or want to register at an anonymous address, THAT CAN HAPPEN. Again, call your local council and ask them how to make that happen.

9) So, essentially, no-one is working to exclude you from voting. But it does require a small amount of effort. One might argue it should be easier. Which is why ERS supports same day registration (being able to register at the polling station on the day of the vote), and a trigger to encourage registration anytime you interact with the state (drivers licences, passports, benefits etc).


Watch this piece from the BBC Sunday Politics Scotland about the new voter registration system

And register to vote online here

Find out more about National Voter Registration Day and Bite the Ballot here

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