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The electoral register is a list of names and addresses of everyone who is registered to vote. This briefing paper sets out the rules on access to the electoral register, including the marked registers. It also sets out the background to the introduction of the open register.

There are two versions of the electoral register:

  • the full register; and
  • the open register, also known as the edited register.

Electoral registers are maintained locally by electoral registration officers (EROs) in your local authority. Voting is voluntary but you must respond to requests for information from an ERO. You cannot object to the use of your name or home address for the purpose of maintaining the electoral register.

The full register

The full register contains the names and addresses of everyone who is registered to vote.

Any member of the public may inspect the full register under supervision. They cannot make any copies or use the information for marketing, but they may make handwritten notes.

There are strict rules on who has access to the full register and on what use can be made of the data contained within it. These are set out in legislation and a breach of the rules is an offence.

Some organisations are entitled to a free copy of the full register on publication. These include:

  • the Office of National Statistics and National Records of Scotland;
  • the British Library and national libraries in Scotland and Wales;
  • the Electoral Commission and boundary commissions;
  • Returning Officers running an election;

The full register is also used for summoning juries.

Certain individuals and organisations are entitled to free copies of the full register (or part of it) on request. These include:

  • registered political parties – for electoral purposes and for checking donations;
  • elected representatives and candidates standing in elections – they are entitled to the full register for the area they represent or are contesting for electoral purposes and checking donations;
  • referendum campaigners registered with the Electoral Commission;
  • local public libraries and local authority archive services; and
  • the police and security services.

Government departments may buy a full copy for vetting and crime prevention and detection purposes.

Credit reference agencies are entitled to buy a full copy of the register if they fulfil certain criteria. Credit refence agencies use the full register so that lenders can check the names and addresses of people applying for credit and carry out identity checks to help stop money laundering.

Full copies available for inspection or for supply will not include anonymous registration entries. These are exempt and only the regsitration officers and elections staff will have access to data of those registered anonymously. The data of those under 16 who have registered in advance of reaching voting age (where the voting age is 16), is also protected and is only disclosed in very limited circumstances.

The full list of who can receive or buy copies of the electoral register are set out by the Electoral Commission document, The electoral register

The open register

The open register contains the names and addresses of everyone who has registered to vote but who has not opted out of the open register. The open register is available for sale. Any individual or organisation may buy the open register from an ERO, for any use, on payment of the appropriate fee.

When registering to vote or responding to the annual canvass sent out by the ERO at your local authority, you will be given the option to opt out of the open register.

Currently in Great Britain about 60% of registered electors are opted out of the open register.

Section 7 gives the background to the introduction of the open register.

The marked register

The marked register, which is the register marked off in polling stations to show who has voted, is open for public inspection after an election. Requests must be in writing and state the purpose of the request. Inspection must be done under supervision only handwritten notes are allowed. Candidates at elections and political parties may also request copies of the marked register for electoral purposes, which may be supplied on payment of a fee.


Documents to download

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