Running electoral registration - Scotland

Processing a change to an elector’s nationality

Where an elector indicates that their nationality has changed, you should check whether this affects their entitlement to vote. If the change does impact on their entitlement, they would need to make a fresh application to register. 

For example, if an elector who becomes a British citizen, a citizen of the Republic of Ireland or a citizen of another Commonwealth country was previously registered only in the register of local government electors, they must make a new application in order to be added to the register of UK Parliamentary electors. As this constitutes a new application, the elector’s details will need to go through the whole application, verification and determination process again.  

If you are informed of such a change in response to a canvass communication, you should invite the person to make a fresh application to register, as a person cannot be registered through a canvass communication.

If you are not satisfied as to any applicant or elector’s nationality, you have the power to require the applicant or elector to provide documentary evidence confirming their nationality.1 In the circumstance set out above, where a change in nationality positively affects an elector’s entitlement to vote, you should request documentary evidence of the change of nationality.

Citizenship ceremonies

You should regularly inspect lists held by the registrar for information on who has become a British citizen through citizenship ceremonies, as part of your power to check local records. You are entitled to inspect and make copies of these records, and could use them, for example, to identify potential new electors and issue them with an invitation to register. Information on applying to register to vote could also be given to the registrar to include in the pack they make available to those receiving British citizenship.

In order to demonstrate that all information obtained complies with the principles of processing personal data, ensuring that it is processed lawfully, fairly and in a transparent manner, you should maintain records of the local records you have inspected and the action you have taken on the basis of the information you have received. 

We have produced guidance on inspecting records, including what details should be recorded to help you demonstrate that you are complying with your obligations under data protection legislation.

Under data protection legislation, nationality data is classed as a special category of personal data because it may reveal an individual’s racial or ethnic origin. Data protection legislation prohibits the processing of special categories of personal data unless an additional lawful basis, beyond those for the main purposes of processing data, is met. The appropriate lawful basis for processing special categories of personal data for electoral purposes would be that it is necessary for reasons of substantial public interest and with a basis in UK law.

The Data Protection Act 2018 requires that, in order to process nationality data, you must have in place a policy document which, amongst other things, must explain your local processing procedures and your policies for the retention and erasure of personal data. 

This policy document must be reviewed and updated at appropriate times, kept until six months after the processing ceases, and made available to the ICO on request.  

Last updated: 23 June 2023