Data matching may have the potential to improve electoral registers in Great Britain, but more work needs to be done, the Electoral Commission has advised the UK Government.
The Commission, the independent elections watchdog, has evaluated pilot schemes by 22 local authorities in England and Scotland, supported by the Cabinet Office. The authorities compared their electoral registers with other sources of information, such as the Department of Work and Pensions database, and the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency driver database as part of the work in preparation for the introduction of individual electoral registration (IER).
The aim was to see if data from these sources was useful for checking the accuracy of the registers and for identifying people missing from the registers who may be eligible to vote.
“The results from the first pilot scheme were inconclusive for a variety of reasons,” says Electoral Commission Director of Electoral Administration, Andrew Scallan. “However, we believe data matching may have the potential to supplement activity by electoral registration officials and help in the implementation of IER. Further, well-constructed trials are necessary so that we can properly evaluate the potential.”
One reason for cautious optimism that further trials will have more success is that the Royal Mail’s change of address database ended up not being tested in the first round of trials. Using the Royal Mail to provide leaflets to people about the need to register when they notify it of changed addresses has had success in the past, so a trial of data matching using these records would have a promising pedigree.