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A guide to the electoral roll of voters in the UK

The electoral roll, or register, is a list of all eligible voters in Britain, organised by area. This helps to manage the polling process at election time, and has other purposes as well, including jury service selection. This article contains a brief guide to what the roll is and how to make sure you’re on it.

How to appear on the roll

Registration on the voter’s roll is not automatic and will not occur as part of your registration for council tax. You can do this yourself by filling out a voter registration form and returning it to your council offices - you can obtain the form from your council or from the About My Vote website. In any event, councils send a voter registration form to each property in a district towards the end of each year. The residents of each property complete the form, deleting anyone who has left the property and indicating any new residents. A new roll will be published on 1 December each year. Once you’re on the roll you can vote in UK parliamentary, and local, as well as European elections, and the separate elections for Wales, Scotland or Ireland, if you live in those areas. A change in the law in the last few years allows for individual voter registration, instead of voter registration by household.

Two versions of the roll

Full register This contains all the details available to the register, including the voter’s name, address and date of birth, their voter number, whether they requested a postal vote and, after each election, whether they chose to cast their vote. Anyone can apply to inspect this version of the register, but legally it may only be used for certain things. There are very restricted categories of person who may obtain copies of the full version, such as political groups and credit referencing agencies. Edited register This version just contains the names and addresses of anyone who is on the voter’s roll, and has not chosen not to appear on this version of the register i.e. unticked a box. This version of the register is available to purchase and is usually used by companies, which use it for marketing purposes. When people look up address or telephone numbers online, they are usually accessing details obtained from the electoral roll.

Living abroad

If you are abroad as a member of the armed forces, you are permitted to register abroad as a service voter. Any other British citizens living abroad, who have been registered to vote within the last 15 years, may register to vote in UK general and European parliamentary elections. These votes may be exercised by post or proxy.

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