I suspect that not many people will have heard of the Electoral Registration and Administration Act 2013 which received Royal Assent on Jan.31st this year. Yet it is a very significant change that will affect all adults.
From July 2014 the traditional household registration will be replaced by Individual Electoral Registration. From that date all applicants who wish to register must provide their national insurance number and date of birth which will be checked against the Department of Works and Pensions database.
Until then Cheshire West and Chester Council will be undertaking a complex process to ensure that the register is as accurate and as comprehensive as possible for the 2015 elections.The annual canvass will take place on October 4th this year with forms coming to every household. Where replies are not received there will be a follow up including, if necessary, a personal canvass. There will be an extensive promotional strategy to bring this to the attention of every citizen and to ensure that all who should be on the Register are included.
Cross- checking the data
Between July and December 2014 all electors on the Register will have their details matched against Department of Works and Pensions data and where a match occurs individuals will be 'passported' to the new Individual Electoral Register. Where matches do not occur there will be a system of local data matching including letters and visits. This is a complex process but care is being taken to ensure that no-one is disenfranchised. Those who register an 'absent' vote will have to comply with somewhat tighter deadlines than those who usually vote in person but the majority of people will be transferred so that they can vote in the 2015 elections.
Why is this being done?
The aim of these changes is to combat election fraud and to make it easier for citizens to vote. A key element in a democracy is confidence in the election process so that all, including the 'losers', can be confident that the result reflects the wishes of the people. When this does not happen huge difficulties occur, e.g. Zimbabwe, but those who remember the problem of 'hanging chads' in the 2000 American Presidential Election are reminded that such problems are not just confined to developing countries.
The result- a robust, accurate Register
This country has a robust and fair system overall, but there have been a recent number of disturbing incidents particularly concerning absent votes. These changes are intended to deal with these concerns. At the core of the democratic process is maintaining an accurate list of all those who can vote and it is up to each one of us to make sure our names are recorded. We may sometimes doubt our voice is heard in the corridors of power but if we do not register we are effectively silenced.
This information comes from Cheshire West and Chester Council. For further information contact the Democratic and Electoral Officer on 01227 977075