Scare stories re voter registration

I’m going to start this post with a few very definitive statements for the benefit of people who won’t read further.
Letter from my local ERO
confirming that my partner
and I are both registered.
  • If you were on the electoral register for the IndyRef, you will NOT be removed from the register until December 2015
  • Under the new system of individual registration, many people will be asked for extra information, usually a NI number.  This is not an identity fraud scam.
  • You cannot check whether you are registered or not online.  You have the right to have your name not published for commercial purposes and if there was an online facility to check, then this would get quickly broken by a robot.  
 Lots of the Electoral Registration Officers (EROs) are very aware of the unfounded concern about people not being registered and are sending out letters to each household advising who are registered.  This is very helpful of them.  

Please read these letters carefully. 
If everyone is registered, then great.  
If someone has been missed off, then do register them.

What has happened?

This cat is under 18 and
not entitled to vote
Last June, in England, the system of household registration for the electoral register changed to individual registration and the system was tightened up to ensure than only real people are registered (at the height of the poll tax protests, I registered my cat to vote).

The introduction of individual registration was delayed until after the IndyRef in Scotland so avoid any issues.  It was agreed in Scotland that the register used for the IndyRef would be used (with monthly updates) until December 2015. 

Some people who don’t match up with other information (e.g. if your name on the electoral register isn’t an exact match with the name on your NI record), will be asked for extra information.  If that information isn’t provided – and you should be asked at least twice – your name will be deleted from the register in December 2015 which may mean you can’t vote in the Holyrood elections in 2016.  

The rumours

The site where you can apply to register to vote, isn’t linked to the local electoral register, so if people put their details in there, it gives a message that people aren’t registered.  What they mean is that the application will be passed to the local ERO who will proceed with the registration.  It’s not a helpful message and some people have got the wrong end of the stick and think it means they weren’t registered or their registration has been deleted.  This is not true.  It doesn't know.

The most paranoid think this is a plot to rig the forthcoming General Election.  It’s not: it’s just a misunderstanding of what this 'postbox' system can do.   It simply doesn’t know whether you are registered or not so treats every registration as if you are a new registration. 

You wouldn't expect the parking meter to tell you how much is in your bank account.  This dumb system doesn't know who you are or whether your are already registered.  It just fills in a form and sends it to your local ERO.

What happens if I use

If you register through this site, it will be treated by your local ERO as a re-registration – and any duplicate existing record will be deleted.  Hopefully the new registration will be fine, but if there is something wrong, then you might not be on the register.

The safest thing to do is simply do nothing if you were registered for the IndyRef.

I'm worried anyway.  How can I check I am registered?

If you don’t get a letter in the next few weeks and are worried, then do contact your local ERO.  If you type your postcode in here, you will find their phone and email. 

There is little reason to hurry: the deadline for new registrations for May's General Election is Monday 20th April.  But it would be kind to people who need to register because they have moved or are registering for the first time to have priority so if you are worried, then ask sooner rather than later. 

More detail on the individual registration system is here  and how it is planned to be implemented in Scotland is available here.