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Old 3rd May 2005, 11:20
  #10 (permalink)  
Nil nos tremefacit
Join Date: May 2000
Location: World
Posts: 75
The Electoral Roll is not covered under the Data Protection Act. It is a public list of people entitled to vote. Democracy couldn't function if nobody knew who was entitled to vote. A secret register of voters is something more akin to the Zimbabwean model.

Anybody may buy a section of the Electoral Roll. It is not a cheap option, but nor, for the commecially minded, is it expensive. Local councils are entitled by law to charge a fee to recover costs, but do not sell names on a commercial basis.

The concerns of Cheerio were noted a couple of years ago and the new system allows you to have your name removed from the 'for sale' version of the Electoral Roll. Not many people know this.

The full Electoral Roll is available at the local council offices and anybody may walk in during working hours and inspect it, but may only make handwritten notes. Local versions for wards etc can be found in libraries. Most people just check for one or two names.

Full copies are also available to local branches of political parties registered on the Electoral Commission web site (one copy per constituency party). At election time any candidate is entitled to one full copy for election purposes only. I have the full copy for the Witney constituency since I am a candidate in the General Election. As a Town Councillor I am also entitled, as are all councillors, to a copy of the Electoral Roll for the ward I represent.

It is a criminal offence for me to photocopy any part of the roll and pass it on, but if I feel so inclined I can copy all 73000 names and addresses by hand or by typing them up. The copies released to politicians are for political purposes only and cannot be sold on to any other body nor used for any other purpose other than distributing leaflets, canvassing for votes or telling at polling stations etc.

The other exceptions are police who can have full copies for address checks and the credit reference companies. Credit companies do not give credit to people who are not on the Electoral Roll. This has led to recent allegations of fraudulent entries being made by illegal immigrants and asylum seekers who seek credit.

If you inspect the Electoral Roll you will see that certain people are only entitled to vote in certain elections based on whether they are EU citizens, Commonwealth citizens etc. Peers may not vote in Parliamentary Elections.

The new reforms also allow for a 'rolling' registration. Under the old system the register was updated annually and couldn't change. If you moved you voted at your previous address. Now you can continue to register throughout the year. The full register is updated twice a year, but amendments are attached as necessary. You could have registered to vote up to about 6 weeks before the election and been on the list.

Hope this is helpful.
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