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10th October 2018
The electoral register, or electoral roll as it is sometimes known, is a government-owned list of everyone who is registered to vote. If you want to vote in an election (national or local) or a referendum, you have to be registered on the electoral roll. In 2015, the government set up the Individual Electoral Registration (IER) meaning that you are no longer automatically registered to vote.
In order to register you’ll need your National Insurance number as well as your passport if you live abroad. You can register online and it only takes around 5 minutes. Some councils offer the chance to register over the phone too.
It is possible to register at two different addresses, for example if you’re a student with a home-address and a term-time address, although you’ll still only be eligible to vote once in each election.
Bare in mind that if you are asked to vote and don’t register yourself, you could be fined £80 by your local Electoral Registration Office, although there are exceptions to this. For example, if you are severely disabled or you’ve had a long stay in hospital.
As well as allowing you to vote in elections and referendums, registering on the electoral roll can have other benefits too. Registering to vote can help improve your credit score. Lenders use the electoral roll to confirm your identity using your name, address and residential history. Once you’ve registered, it can take a couple of weeks for your information to be updated as councils usually process applications once a month and send all the details to credit reference agencies.
Many lenders, including banks and building societies, will also check your information using the electoral roll before issuing a mortgage or loan. For this reason, it is important to regularly ensure that your details are correct and up-to-date.
If you move house or change your name, you’ll need to update your details. If you don’t have a permanent address, you are allowed to use your parents’ address. It is often safer to do this to protect against identity fraud, particularly if you live in shared accommodation.
It’s important to know that there are two registers. The electoral register contains the names and addresses of registered voters. This register ensures that only eligible people can vote and is used for lawful purposes, such as detecting fraud, credit applications and jury service. The other register is called the open register and its data can be purchased by anybody, such as charities and businesses. At point of registering on the electoral register, you will be asked if you want to be shown on the open register. If you opt in to appearing on the open register, your name and address will be included. Removing yourself from the open register does not remove you from the electoral register and will not affect your right to vote.
If you’re not sure whether you are already registered to vote or not, you can contact your local authority.