Government has today published a consultation paper on the future of the Edited Electoral Register. Six options are being considered for the future of the register.
The consultation follows a recommendation in the Data Sharing Review, published in July 2008, that the edited register should be abolished. At present, local authorities are by law obliged to sell the edited version of the electoral roll to anyone prepared to pay a small fee. The register may be used for any purpose, including the creation of junk mail lists.
The edited register came into existence in 2002, after a member of the public had successfully challenged the use of the electoral register for commercial purposes. Rather than stopping the sale of the electoral register, the Government decided to introduce a second - 'edited' - version of the roll. Voters who do not want to be included on the edited register can tick an opt-out box on their electoral registration form. Currently, 40% of voters are opted out of being on the edited register.
The Data Sharing Review recommended the abolition of the edited register. The report argued that the sale of the list "is an unsatisfactory way for local authorities to treat personal information" and that "it sends a particularly poor message to the public that personal information collected for something as vital as participation in the democratic process can be sold 'to anyone for any purpose'."
In the consultation paper the Government has set out six options for the future of the edited register, including abolition, restricting access to the register, replacing the current 'opt out' provision with an 'opt in', and better informing the public about the register. Not reforming the current system is not an option in the paper.
The consolation will end on 23 February 2010. Both members of the public and stakeholders can respond to the consultation document.