The Electoral Commission

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

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Encouraging a response

Here you can find examples of good practice shared by local authorities in order to encourage responses.

  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 issue a Household Enquiry Form (HEF) to households in their area each year, except in limited prescribed circumstances, and to issue two reminders and make a personal visit if there is no response
  • In addition to undertaking the prescribed follow up steps, no response from households can also lead to the ERO having to take further action, e.g. a registration review, to establish who is entitled to be on the electoral register
  • Where an ERO becomes aware of an individual in a household being entitled to register to vote they must invite them to do so and to issue two reminders and make a personal visit if there is no response
  • The earlier in the HEF or ITR process a household or individual responds, the less resource intensive this is for the ERO
  • EROs are utilising their registration stationery and materials to encourage a response as early as possible

Options

  • Canvassers leaving ‘calling cards’ where they have been unable to speak directly to a member of a household
  • Amending registration materials, within the limits of the legislation, to encourage response

Experiences of others

As an additional step during the canvass, Bradford introduced ‘calling cards’ that were delivered to non-responding properties to encourage a response. This has increased their response from 5% to between 15-20%.

Sefton have trialled leaving a calling card with ITRs. They have found this to be successful and it has helped to overcome reluctance to provide personal identifiers on the doorstep.

In 2015, Swale had over 5,000 Invitations to Register (ITRs) that had been sent out during the canvass as a result of HEF responses but not all elicited successful registration applications.

Building on the Household Notification Letter (HNL) they had used before the 2015 UK Parliamentary general election and had proved very successful they developed a Household Notification Card (HNC) for the 2016 canvass using a colour coded traffic light system.

This postcard-style communication was specifically designed to encourage people who were not already registered to make an application and helped electors who may have been confused about getting an additional form following their completion of the HEF.

More information about what Swale did with their Household Notification Card is available in this case study.

Bath have added a line to the covering envelopes used to send registration review letters which says ‘Notice of review/deletion’, which has helped reduce complaints and misunderstandings from residents.

They have also found this messaging on the envelopes to assist with the administration of any undelivered letters, as it removes the need to open them to establish their contents and allows quicker processing.


Potential benefits

  • Improved response rate at an earlier stage in the HEF or ITR process
  • Reduced need for reminders and household visits, resulting in greater efficiency and creating the potential for reducing costs
  • Improved accuracy and completeness of registers
  • Improved experience for electors

Considerations for the ERO

  • Ensuring that, in utilising any of the options for encouraging a response, they continue to meet all their legal duties, including all follow-up steps for non-responses to HEFs and ITRs.
  • Ensuring that, in utilising any amendments to the materials to encourage a response, all registration materials remain compliant with legislation

Resources

Part 1 (PDF) of our guidance for EROs contains advice on working with partners in order to maximise registration.

You can also draw on our resources and templates for any of your communications with residents in your area. These have been designed with impact and accessibility in mind.

For information on and examples of methods adopted by some EROs to ensure a full and effective canvass of properties, see our resource ‘Effective personal canvassing’.

In addition, information on and examples of communication methods adopted by some EROs to motivate and engage people to take action can be found in our resource ‘Communications

Electoral administrator