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, thereâ€™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 Â£1,000 if you donâ€™t register.
Not only is the register a database of voters but itâ€™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 youâ€™re likely to be good for that loan or mortgage youâ€™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:
- Online at a special website
- A phone call to an automated freephone service
- A text message by SMS from my mobile phone
- Return the paper canvass form in the post
It wasnâ€™t too many years ago that your only choice was the good old Royal Mail â€“ 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 â€“ 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.
Simplicity itself â€“ type in the number to send the message to, type in the code number in the body of the message, and hit â€˜send.â€™
If youâ€™ve done it correctly, youâ€™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 â€“ the next general election in the UK is due before June 3, 2010 â€“ is another matter entirely.
If youâ€™re registered in time, at least youâ€™ll be able to make the choice.