You may have recently received, or will soon receive, a form asking you to check the accuracy of information held by elections staff at your local authority. This is part of a process known as the “annual canvass”, aimed at helping your local authority to keep its electoral register up to date.
What is the annual canvass?
The Electoral Registration Officer at your local authority is legally responsible for maintaining an accurate electoral register; the annual canvass, which takes place each year between 1 July and 30 November, allows for the correction of any omissions or errors.
The form is referred to as the household enquiry form. It’s not actually a registration form, but if you add new names of people living at the property that aren’t already on the form, your local authority will know to send them a separate registration form.
16 and 17 year olds can also be added to the form wherever you are in the UK, as although they may not yet be to vote, they can be added to the register in advance of their 18th birthday.
It is especially important to keep an eye out for the annual canvass form if you have recently moved into your property. Our research indicates that recent home movers are far less likely to be registered than those that have lived at the same address for a long time. Across Great Britain, only 27% of people living at their address for less than one year are registered to vote, compared to 96% of people who have been at their property for more than sixteen years.
Do I have to reply?
Yes. Electoral Registration Officers are legally obliged to undertake the annual canvass and to maintain accurate electoral registers. By completing and returning the form, you are helping them do this, but you are also ensuring that you are on the electoral register and therefore able to have your say at elections and referendums. If no response is received after three household enquiry forms are issued, the Electoral Registration Officer will make a visit to the household to confirm the details listed. If you persistently fail to respond you could be subject to a fine. If you are not on the electoral register, you will also not be able to vote in any elections.
Why is there a box asking if I’m over 76?
The electoral register is used by HM Courts and Tribunals Service to determine members of the public eligible for jury service. Those over the age of 76 are not required to undertake jury service, and the council provides this information to identify those eligible and ineligible.
Can I register to vote at any time of the year?
Of course! You can always register to vote at any point throughout the year either by applying online via www.gov.uk/register-to-vote or by requesting a form from the Electoral Registration Officer at your local authority.
Since the introduction of individual elector registration in 2014, each person is now responsible for their own registration, rather than a designated “head of the household” as used to be the case. This means that others in your household can no longer register you, you must do this yourself.
It’s a simple process, but if you need a hand there’s lots of helpful information about registering to vote on our website www.yourvotematters.co.uk
Melanie Davidson, Head of Support and Improvement at the Electoral Commission