What is the full register?
The law makes it compulsory to provide information to an electoral registration officer for inclusion in the full register. The details you are likely to have to provide are your name, address, nationality and age. The full register is updated every month and published once a year, and is used by electoral registration officers across the country for purposes related to elections. Political parties, MPs and public libraries also have the full register.
It is also used by local authorities for their duties relating to security, law enforcement and crime prevention, for example checking entitlement to council tax discount or housing benefit. It may also be used by the police for law enforcement purposes.
It can be sold to government departments to help in their duties such as the prevention or detection of crime. They can also use it for vetting job applicants and employees if this is required by law. Credit reference agencies are allowed to buy the full version of the register so that lenders can check the names and addresses of people applying for credit and carry out identity checks to help stop money laundering.
It is a crime for anyone who has a copy of the full register to pass information from this register onto others if they do not have a lawful reason to see it.
What is the open register (also known as the edited register)?
The open register contains the same information as the full register. It is not compulsory to have your details on the edited version of the register and you will be given the chance to opt out on the voter registration form which is sent to every household in the country once a year. The open register is updated and published once a year and can be sold to any person, organisation or company and used for any number of purposes, including direct marketing.
How can I opt out of the open register?
If you do not want your details on the electoral register made more widely available, you will need to show you do not want this by marking or ticking the box on the electoral registration form sent to every household once a year by your local authority. However, you can also opt out at any time of year by contacting your electoral registration officer.
It is important to understand that if you do not indicate you do not want your information to be made more widely available then, by default, the personal details you provide on the voter registration form will be included on both the full and the edited versions of the register. This means they will be made available to anyone who wants to buy the edited version.
In addition, those who believe that having their name and address on the electoral register would put them, or anyone who lives with them, at risk can apply for anonymous registration. Ask your electoral registration officer for further information.
How can I update my details on the register?
The updated full and open registers are published usually by 1 December. If you move house, you can re-register with your new address, and your new details will be included in the next monthly update of the full register.
How can I opt out or update my details in Northern Ireland?
From 1 December 2006, registration in Northern Ireland became continuous. This means that annual forms are not sent out to households. If you live in Northern Ireland and want to update your details or to notify that you do not want your details to be more widely available, it is up to you to submit the registration form, available from the Electoral Office for Northern Ireland.
Why are my old details still available if I opted out?
Prior to November 2001 the register could be sold to anyone prepared to pay a fee. A ruling by the high court (following a case brought by a member of the public, Mr Robertson) changed the law governing the use of personal information on the electoral register. The high court ruling confirmed that it was unlawful to sell copies of the electoral register to private businesses without giving people a choice not to have their information used in this way. However, the register before this date is still available.
Organisations who legitimately bought a copy of the register before the change in the law could still be using your details.
If you didn’t opt out in each year since 2002, your details may also be available to organisations.