Running electoral registration - Scotland

Ensuring registers are accurate and complete

Ensuring registers are accurate and complete

You need to publish registers that are as accurate and complete as possible.

By accurate we mean that there are no false entries and by complete we mean that every person who is entitled to have an entry in an electoral register is registered.

You have a duty under Section 9A of the Representation People Act 1983 (as amended by the Electoral Registration and Administration Act 2013) to take all necessary steps to comply with your duty to maintain the electoral register, and to ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, that all those eligible (and no others) are registered in it.1  

The steps required under Section 9A include:

  • sending at least one canvass communication to any address
  • sending a canvass form more than once
  • making on one or more occasions house to house inquiries
  • making on one or more occasions contact by telephone
  • making contact by such other means as the registration officer thinks appropriate with persons who do not have an entry in a register
  • inspecting any records held by any person which he is permitted to inspect under or by virtue of any enactment or rule of law
  • providing training to persons under his direction or control in connection with the carrying out of the duty

You must actively consider each of the steps listed and take all such action that you consider necessary in order to fulfil your duty to maintain the register of electors. The steps do not need to be taken in any particular order.

If you fail to take these steps, you may be in breach of official duty, which on summary conviction can result in a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale.2

While the Section 9A duty to take all necessary steps to ensure your registers are accurate and complete still applies, the requirement to carry out house-to-house enquiries as part of the annual canvass has not been extended to 14 and 15 year olds. 
You are also required by law to take specified steps to follow up on particular canvass non-responses, including making contact with the property or an individual. 

Any potential new electors identified will also need to be sent an Invitation to register (ITR) and a registration application form, and you will need to take the specified steps – issuing two reminders and a personal visit - to follow up with any ITR non-responders.3 These processes will not all be linear and will need to be carried out concurrently.

These duties apply throughout the year and not just during the canvass period.

We provide more guidance to help you with production of the ITR and registration form in our forms and letters guidance.

A personal visit to 14 or 15 year olds who have not responded to an ITR is not required at any time during the year.4

If you do not make a visit to the household, you should consider what other mechanisms you can use to encourage a response from those in this age group. For example, you could contact under 16's by email if you hold their email address. Also, as part of any canvass follow-up activity, there may be an opportunity to remind any adults living at an address that 15 year olds and some 14 year olds are now entitled to register and to ask them to encourage any 14/15 year olds at the address to apply to register online.

You should also consider working with partners that specifically work or have influence with young people and reflect this in your plans. For further information, see Planning for registration and public engagement throughout the year.   

We have produced a resource about engaging with young people and attainers.


Last updated: 27 May 2021