The Electoral Commission

The independent body which oversees elections and regulates political finance in the UK

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Effective personal canvassing

Here you can find examples of good practice in personal canvassing shared by local authorities.

  1. Key considerations
  2. Options
  3. Experiences of others
  4. Potential benefits
  5. Considerations for the ERO
  6. Resources

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Key considerations

  • EROs are required to take prescribed steps to follow up non-responses to HEFs and ITRs, including issuing two reminders and making a personal visit where necessary
  • Potential new electors (such as where a name is added to a HEF) need to be sent an ITR and voter registration form and EROs are required to take prescribed steps to follow up any non-responses to ITRs, including issuing two reminders and making a personal visit where necessary. This process continues throughout the year
  • In some areas there can be significant numbers of properties and individuals to personally visit
  • EROs are using a range of methods to meet these challenges


Some EROs have found the following options helpful in preparing for their personal canvassing activity:

  • Use of full time canvassers for harder to reach areas (Allerdale Borough Council)
  • New channels for canvasser recruitment (Cotswold District Council)
  • Use of other council contact points (Wealden District Council and Lancaster City Council)
  • Minimising the number of households requiring a visit by the Council’s central canvassing team by utilising resources at Parish level (Cotswold District Council)

Experiences of others

Allerdale, which is a predominantly rural authority covering much of the northern part of the Lake District National Park, appointed three full time canvassers dedicated to carrying out visits in their harder to reach areas for the 2016 canvass.

For the 2016 canvass Cotswold approached the Clerks to each of the Parish Councils in their area to ask if they would undertake personal canvassing of households in their parishes.

Several did so and Cotswold will be looking to increase this number in 2017.

Weymouth & Portland Borough Council, West Dorset District Council, Purbeck District Council and Lancaster City Council

These EROs use housing and benefits officers employed by the Council to reach residents for other purposes to encourage completion of a HEF or the making of an application to register.

By utilising these staff, as well as being cost-effective due to the officers being existing council employees, the ERO is able to effectively engage residents in groups that are historically under-registered such as attainers, those with disabilities and those living in houses of multiple occupation.

Potential benefits

  • Improved response rate to personal canvassing, which in turn supports more accurate and complete registers
  • Ability to more easily carry out personal visits to properties you may previously have found challenging to personally canvass
  • More efficient use of council resources by utilising all available resources across every tier of the Council, rather than having to recruit, train and manage all canvassers centrally

Considerations for the ERO

  • The scale of the challenge in the area – for example:
    • What are the expected numbers of properties or individuals where a visit is likely to be required?
    • What is the location of these, e.g. are there any remote areas or buildings that are difficult to access?
  • The financial costs/benefits and administrative challenges of implementing any given option to ensure that the approach taken is the most appropriate for your area.


Part 3 (PDF) and Part 4 (PDF) of our guidance for EROs set out the requirements for personal canvassing where responses are not received to HEFs and ITRs.

Our canvass planning guidance document (DOC) also provides specific guidance to EROs on managing the personal canvassing process. We have also produced a number of accompanying resources to further support this, including:

For further information on, and examples to assist EROs in planning for an effective personal canvass, see the following resources:

Electoral administrator