The Draft Representation of the People (England and Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2002 were considered in detail by a specialist sub-committee of the Society on 21st May, 2002.
The sub-committee made the following points and comments on the Draft Statutory Instrument regarding the access, sale and supply of the electoral register.
- They are concerned whether the draft S.I. has met the objections raised by the Robertson Judgment. It was noted that the order was complicated and members felt that there may be difficulties applying the supervision requirements, where the public had access to examine the full electoral register.
- There are a large number of individuals and organisations qualified to receive copies of the full electoral register and whilst the supply of the full register is subject to strict conditions and members felt there may well be breaches of the conditions and that such breaches would be difficult to police.
- Members expressed concern as to the effectiveness of the conditions. The full register would, in their view, rightly continue to be a public document open to public inspection. However, members of the public although under supervision could copy extracts from the full register, whilst at the same time being able to compare it with the edited version of the register, if they had purchased the latter. If so minded it would enable them to identify those electors who wished their names not to be included in the edited version of the register.
- Section 94 (3) states that anyone wishing to check the inclusion of their own name must attend in person to verify their inclusion at a designated place. As the object is to ensure that people are able to vote, members felt that this added a difficulty and wondered if contact by telephone or other means had been considered or rejected.
- Members felt that it was unclear how the validity of any entry could be challenged. The ability of concerned people, be they in the political field or other members of the public, to challenge entries in the register is important. This safeguard is significant, particularly when election cases in the courts have on occasions revealed that the names of non-existent people have appeared on the electoral register.
- It was noted that the form in which the electoral register is published is a matter for the electoral registration officer so long as it conforms with the requirements set out in Sections 38 to 42 of the 2001 Regulations. Members felt that there should be further consideration to try and achieve a standard format.
- Members noted that the facsimile Annual Canvass Electoral Registration Form included so much information it is only just possible to fit it onto an A4 page and there are three additional pages of notes. Members were curious as to why it was necessary to record the nationality of European Union citizens.
- Section 107 (4) authorises the use of the full electoral register by a Councillor or Council employee for statutory functions of the Council relating to security, law enforcement, crime prevention and statistical purposes, but does not include for trading standards purposes. Members believed consideration should be given to such an extension of authorised use.
There were a number of matters that have not been included in the Draft StatutoryInstrument which members wished to raise.
- There is no reference to the LASER project currently being undertaken.
- Nowhere is there authority within existing statutes for an electoral registration officer to delete a name that he knows has been included in the register fraudulently, unless an elector raises an objection.
- It is not clear whether when the full electoral register is reprinted the edited version should also be reprinted.
- Members felt that the electoral register requires a heading that makes clear what it is and what is the purpose of the register.
- In 2001 the right for candidates and election agents or their deputies to attend the issue of postal ballot papers was withdrawn and members believe that this right should be reinstated and allow greater transparency of the electoral process. Members were aware of a number of errors that had occurred recently at the issue of postal ballots.
- Members were disappointed that the opportunity had not been taken to simplify the timetable for changes to the register, at present there is no set date in any month and people find it most confusing.
- Members felt that the electoral registration form used at the annual canvass should include a note to explain that an elector now has the ability to change a registered address at any time following their removal to a new address.