Running electoral registration - England

Public inspection of the full register

Public inspection of the full register

You must make the full register available for public inspection.1 You must ensure that:2  

  • any inspection takes place under supervision, either by you or someone else 
  • there is provision for inspection at your office and, additionally, at your discretion, you may enable inspection of the register at one or more places elsewhere in your area if there are reasonable facilities for this

The legislation does not prescribe the level and nature of supervision of those who inspect the register. You should, however, be satisfied that the supervision is sufficient to prevent, as far as possible, unauthorised copying or theft of all or any part of the register. You should provide training or guidance notes to those staff who will be supervising the inspection of the register.

Handwritten notes may be made by those inspecting the full register. Any other copying or recording is not permitted, and is a criminal offence.3
Registers may be made available for inspection in paper and/or electronic form. If you make the register available for inspection electronically you must take steps to ensure the security of the register; in particular, you will need to ensure that any person inspecting the register is prevented from downloading, transmitting electronically or printing this information or copying it by any other means. Any search facility must be by address only and not by name, as this is specifically prohibited.4 Whether paper or electronic records are provided, any photographing or similar recording of the register, including by mobile phone, is also prohibited.

A person inspecting the register is not permitted to use the information for direct marketing.5  You could ask those inspecting the register to give their name and address and to sign a disclaimer stating that they understand that breaching the legal restrictions would be an offence. If a person subsequently breaches those restrictions, you will have an audit trail demonstrating that the inspection was undertaken in accordance with electoral law.

You may allow library or other council staff to provide inspection facilities, provided that you are confident that they can offer an appropriate level of supervision. You may want to support other staff in providing the appropriate level of supervision by, for example, sending a copy of the legislation and any relevant guidance to the responsible person and obtaining a signed letter or email stating that the requirements will be followed. You may consider updating the signed undertaking annually. 

You should make regular checks to ensure that the supervision continues to be sufficient. If you have any concerns that steps are not being taken to avoid a breach of the regulations, you may wish to take legal advice. You should remove the copies of the register from any place where you are not satisfied that the supervision arrangements are sufficient.

We have produced a cover sheet for the inspection of the register which sets out how it may be used and the penalty for misuse.


Last updated: 12 October 2020