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Getting on the Electoral Register

The Electoral Register is more than just a way of ensuring you can vote in elections.

What is the Electoral Register?

The Electoral Register is the record of everyone who is can vote in elections in the UK. Electoral Registers are maintained by local councils, who are also responsible for the running of all elections. In Northern Ireland the register is maintained by the Electoral Office of Northern Ireland, which also run elections.

Who can go on the Electoral Register?

You can go on the Electoral Register as long as you are:

  • aged 16 or over (although you can't vote until you are 18);
  • a British or Republic of Ireland citizen, or citizen from a Commonwealth country who has the right to live in the UK;
  • a European Union citizen living in the UK.

You can go on the Electoral Register even if you are homeless or don't have a permanent address. You can also be added if you live abroad; for example if you are a solider on a tour of duty or you are working abroad for the British Government.

Can everyone on the Electoral Register vote?

There are certain restrictions as to who can and can't vote. You can't vote until you are 18, although you can be added to the register after your 16th birthday. Convicted prisoners, or those who were involved in election fraud in the last five years, can't vote. EU citizens can't vote in general elections (elections where you vote for an MP), but they can vote in local, devolved and European elections.

Why should I be on the Electoral Register?

As well as the obvious reason that you can participate in elections the Electoral Register is also used by credit companies to verify you are who you say you are. So before you can get a credit card or loan they'll usually check your details against that on the Electoral Register. The Electoral Register can also be used for things like CRB disclosures, which may be required for particular jobs.

And not forgetting that it's illegal to not be registered on the Electoral Register; you could be fined £1,000 and get a criminal conviction.

Is the Electoral Register public?

There are two versions of the Electoral Register: the full version and the edited version. The full version contains everybody who is registered to vote, but can only be used to run elections, for credit checks and to prevent and detect crime. The edited version is a public document and can be viewed by anyone, but being on the edited version is optional.

Companies that offer to search the Electoral Register are only using the edited version.

I'm a student, where should I register?

Students who live away from home are allowed to register to vote where they are studying and where they live permanently. You can vote in both places for local elections, but only in one place for other types of elections.

How do I register?

If you've moved, or turned 16, you will need to register with your local council. You can also check when them if you are unsure whether you are on the Electoral Register. In Northern Ireland, you need to check with the Electoral Office for Northern Ireland.

To register, you must fill out a registration form, which you can obtain from your local council or complete online.

Registering around the country

The registration process differs slightly depending on where you live. There are different processes for Northern Ireland, if you are living overseas, or if you are a EU citizen living in the UK.

England, Scotland and Wales

  • To vote in election and referendums for England, Scotland and Wales you need to be on the electoral register.
  • If you have recently moved home or are unsure whether you are registered, then you need to register to vote. This can be done at any time of the year, regardless of whether there is a forthcoming election in your area.
  • The electoral registers are updated once a month. If you contact your local authority they will confirm if you are registered.

Northern Ireland 

If you live in Northern Ireland and you are not already registered to vote, you need to fill in a registration form.

  • You can obtain a form from the Electoral Office for Northern Ireland or from your local area electoral office.
  • You also need a current form of photo ID to be able to vote. The only acceptable forms of ID are a UK, Irish or other European Union passport; a photographic UK driving licence; a Translink Senior SmartPass; or an electoral identity card.

Article produced by the Choose Action Alliance.

Updated: 13/04/2010


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