Online electoral registration: not quite as novel at it sounds

Earlier this month Harrow Council caught the headlines for its new electoral registration system:

Harrow Council has become the first local authority in the country to take its electoral registration online.

As authorities across the country contact residents to ensure their details are added to the electoral register, Harrow will be asking people to respond to the annual canvass online.

The council said residents would be able confirm details “at the click of a button”, avoiding “cumbersome paper forms”. [Public Service; hat-tip: Toby James]


This is not quite as novel as it may sound, because for several years other councils have already being using  electronic ways of people confirming that their existing register details are correct and should be rolled over onto the new register.

Harrow is going one step further than this and its success will depend on three factors: how good the checks in the system are against someone sat at a computer creating numerous bogus entries (the plan to post out security codes does not necessarily protect against this as paperwork can be intercepted, as has happened in cases of postal voting fraud); how good the audit trail is of who did what and when so that suspicions can be properly investigated; and the extent to which this is seen as a way of improving registration levels or of cutting budgets.

On the first two points, it is promising that the details of the scheme involve an extra level of security for people who want to change their details rather than simply confirm an existing register entry.

* Mark Pack has written 101 Ways To Win An Election and produces a monthly newsletter about the Liberal Democrats.

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2 Comments

  • Paul Bumstead 29th Jul '12 - 8:39pm

    As I see it the major problem with this is the fact that, on average, 20% of households do not have online access – it can aslo be suggested that 20% of these do not want it. How will Harrow Council ensure that everyone who wants to register to vote can do so?

  • Paul Bumstead

    If you follow the link, you’ll see they thought of that problem:
    “Those without access to the internet will still be able to use traditional paperwork.”

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