The electoral register and choices

howtoregister Each year at this time, local councils throughout the UK send out the Annual Canvass for the Electoral Register, a form that everyone over the voting age of 18 is required to complete in order to be listed in the Electoral Register.

In the UK, there’s no legal obligation to vote at an election. But there is a legal obligation to be listed on the Electoral Register and a fine of up to £1,000 if you don’t register.

Not only is the register a database of voters but it’s also a resource used to determine your eligibility for jury service and by credit reference agencies as part of their reference-checking when deciding whether you’re likely to be good for that loan or mortgage you’ve applied for.

Such a form arrived at our house today.

As none of the data required any changes, I could take advantage of any of the methods of notifying that fact to the electoral people at my Council, namely:

  1. Online at a special website
  2. A phone call to an automated freephone service
  3. A text message by SMS from my mobile phone
  4. Return the paper canvass form in the post

It wasn’t too many years ago that your only choice was the good old Royal Mail – edit the paper form, stick it in the envelope and pop it into your nearest post box.

Thankfully, that single-option method is long gone. Today, you have many choices as noted above – whatever is your preference, you will likely have that choice.

Last time, I used the special website. This time, I decided to give the SMS service a shot.

registersmsSimplicity itself – type in the number to send the message to, type in the code number in the body of the message, and hit ‘send.’

If you’ve done it correctly, you’ll get an automated acknowledgment SMS back after a few minutes confirming that your registration was successful. Great to know all that technology on a server somewhere works correctly.

I did my SMS in the kitchen waiting for the kettle to boil to make a cup of coffee. I could equally have been in the pub or on a train.

The point is that I could do this from wherever and whenever I happened to be at that moment.

Convenient and so easy, I reckon it makes it more likely that people will register.

Whether that means more people will actually vote in an election – the next general election in the UK is due before June 3, 2010 – is another matter entirely.

If you’re registered in time, at least you’ll be able to make the choice.

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

  1. brunoamaral

    I was not aware that registering to vote in the UK required that sort of procedure and had that much importance in other activities.

    In Portugal there is no 1000 euro fine for not registering, in fact it is only “mandatory” at 18, with no penalty.

    We already use the number of blank votes, null votes and abstinence as indicators of lack of belief in the officials. Given that fact that some people don’t bother to register, we could use that as an indicator of the lack of belief in the current system or at least the current organization of candidates.

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