A person is entitled to be registered in the register of local government electors if on the date of application to register the person is resident in that area, is not subject to any legal incapacity to vote (age apart), meets the citizenship requirements and is of voting age .
The local government register is the electoral register that is used at both local government and Assembly elections. A different electoral register is used at parliamentary and Police and Crime Commissioner elections – this is known as the parliamentary register.
The Electoral Registration Officer (ERO) for the area is under a duty to keep and maintain electoral registers, including a register in respect of local government electors .
The register itself is required to contain :
- names of persons who appear to the ERO to be entitled to be registered and in respect of whom a successful application for registration has been made;
- qualifying addresses (subject to any prescribed exceptions); and
- in relation to each such person, that person's electoral number (which is allocated by EROs).
Registration – the process
EROs are required to take all steps necessary for the purpose of complying with the duty to maintain the registers under section 9 of the Representation of the People Act 1983, and for the purpose of securing that, so far as is reasonably practicable, persons who are entitled to be registered in a register are registered in it .
The first step is to undertake a canvass (know as annual canvass). Section 9D of the Representation of the People Act 1983 provides that the ERO must conduct an annual canvass in relation to the area for which the officer acts. The canvass is an inquiry as to who resides in a household. A returned canvass form gives the ERO that information and it is not an application to register any of the reported residents. Further information on how the annual canvass should be conducted is contained in regulation 32ZA of the Representation of the People (England and Wales) Regulations 2001. The annual canvass normally runs from July to 1st December.
The ERO must then provide relevant persons identified in the canvass with an invitation to register as an elector. Section 9E(7) of the Representation of the People Act 1983 provides that an ERO may impose a civil penalty on a person who fails to comply with a requirement imposed by an ERO.
The register is updated on a monthly basis and electors may register themselves during the year (referred to as rolling registration) if their details change, by completing and returning a voter registration form to the ERO.
Registration - anonymous registration
Section 9B of the Representation of the People Act 1983 provides for anonymous voters on to the register. A person may be able to register anonymously if they are concerned about their safety or another person in their household. The details of anonymous voters will not appear on the full or edited register.
An application for an anonymous voter must be made in accordance with prescribed requirements
There are two versions of the local government electoral register:
The full register
This contains the names and addresses of all those registered. The full register is used for:
- preventing and detecting crime
- checking applications for loans or credit
- jury summoning
It is a public document that can be made available to any member of the public who wishes to consult it.
The edited register (also referred to as the “open” register)
This is an extract of the full electoral register. It is not used for the administration of elections and can be bought by any person, company or organisation.
An elector’s name and address is included in the edited/open register unless the elector asks not to be included in it (individuals generally do this through the household canvass form). Not being included in the edited/open register does not affect a person’s right to vote.
Entitlement to be on the register
Entitlement to be registered as a local government elector is set out in section 4(3) of the 1983 Act . It provides that a person is entitled to be registered in the register of local government electors if on the relevant date the person:
- is resident in that area
- is not subject to any legal incapacity to vote (age apart)
- is a qualifying Commonwealth citizen, a citizen of the Republic of Ireland or a relevant citizen of the Union
- is of voting age.
Section 4(5) deals with when a person can be entered onto the register in the case of those who are under voting age at the time of registration (often called “attainers”). A person may be registered as an attainer, if they attain voting age (18) during the lifecycle of the current electoral register (which normally starts and ends on 1 December) . All 17 year olds may therefore be attainers and some 16 year olds may also be attainers, depending on the date of their birthday).
In 2019, the Presiding Officer of the National Assembly for Wales introduced the Senedd and Elections (Wales) Bill to the Assembly which if passed by the Assembly would introduce certain reforms including reducing the voting age for Assembly elections to 16. If passed, this will allow some 14 and 15 year olds to be attainers on the local government register for the purposes of Assembly elections.