Agenda item

Individual Electoral Registration (IER)

To update the Sub-committee on the introduction of Individual Electoral Registration.

 

Minutes:

The Sub-committee received an update on the introduction of Individual Electoral Registration and the Council’s preparations for the most significant change to the system of registration for a hundred years. It was noted that from 10 June 2014 anyone wishing to be added to the electoral register would have to apply to do so individually and would have to supply details of their date of birth and national insurance number as well as their name and address. This additional information would be checked against the records held by the Department of Works and Pensions to verify the identity of the applicant. Applicants could now apply to register on-line or by contacting the Council’s Electoral Services team. This replaced the previous system of household registration.

 

In order to make the transition to the new system as painless as possible for most people it was intended that the contents of the Council’s existing register of electors would be submitted to the DWP IER digital service on 30 June 2014 for data matching against the DWP’s records. This would involve submitting details of in excess of 72,000 electors and it was expected that over 80% of the records would be matched. Where this was the case those electors would be automatically “confirmed” across to the new IER transitional register and would receive letters to confirm that this had happened and that no further action was needed. Efforts would also be made to match as many people who had not matched DWP records by using locally held databases. When this had been done on a trial basis in July 2013 of the 13,500 records which had not initially matched DWP records a further 5,500 had been matched using local data but 8,000 could not be matched. It was hoped that the match rates in 2014 would be slightly better as considerable work had been carried out to try and make the register as accurate as possible before the confirmation process took place. Where records could not be matched individuals would be sent Invitations to Register and where the Registration Officer suspected that eligible inividuals might be present in a household then a Household Enquiry Form would be sent to seek information on the occupants which could then be followed up by sending Invitations to Register. Members were reminded that non-responders to both HEF’s and ITR’s would have to be sent at least two further reminders and at least one attempt to make personal contact by “door knocking”. This would be a major exercise during the transition period following 30 June but would also be a continuing requirement throughout the year on the case of new applications.

 

It was noted that nobody on the register prior to the change to IER would be removed if they failed to be confirmed or to respond to invitations to register until 1st December 2015 and would still be able to vote at the May elections in 2015. However anyone who had not been confirmed to the new register or had not registered individually would not be able to have a postal or proxy vote for those elections.   

 

Progress since the last meeting of the Sub-committee in November 2013 was outlined. The last pre-IER canvass had been completed and the Register of Electors published on 17 February 2014. Preparations had been made for the introduction of IER after the Minister finally confirmed that this would go ahead to the original timetable in December 2013, although the Cabinet Office had continued to make changes and require additional system testing right up until the end of May. At the same time electoral services staff were conducting the canvass and making arrangements for a by-election and the European elections whilst also been short staffed due to illness. In all the circumstances preparations for the introduction of IER had gone as well as possible and the Council had passed all of the “connectivity” tests that had been required to be carried out. However Members were reminded that this represented fundamental change and was a new challenge for all electoral teams across the country and that there were many uncertainties, including how well electoral management systems would work with the new arrangements and how well the interface with the IER Digital Service worked. Although the Electoral Commission would be running a national publicity campaign in July and August to publicise the change to individual registration it was likely that the change would cause confusion and could also generate complaints from the public and resistance to providing the additional information required in order to register to vote. It was likely that there would be a high level of registration activity across the summer and throughout the transition period and the preparations for the combined elections in May 2015. Once IER had been introduced anyone registered under the new system would only need to re-register if they changed address and to confirm their details on the Household Enquiry Form which would be sent to every household each autumn during the annual canvass.

 

The Managing Director suggested that the political parties might wish to give greater thought to how they sought to encourage people to register during the run up to future elections given that this would involve handling personal data.

 

It was suggested that other Members might wish to learn more about individual registration and that a briefing might be offered to all Members during the transition stage if there was sufficient interest.

 

The Sub-committee wished the officers every success with the move to individual registration.

 

            RESOLVED: That the report be noted.

             

       

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