Running electoral registration - Wales

Retention of documents supplied as part of an absent vote application

You must retain the following documents and information if supplied as part of an application, including any copies taken of original documents, until the application has been determined:1

  • the application form itself 
  • the information that you receive as a result of an online application
  • any evidence you receive under the documentary exceptions or attestation processes. 

The signatures and dates of birth of postal and proxy voters must be stored securely. Paper applications may be scanned and stored electronically, or you may keep the originals in paper form.

You may keep these documents and information after your determination of the application.2 Data protection legislation does not specify maximum periods for retention of personal data but says that personal data processed for any purpose shall not be kept for longer than is necessary for that purpose. 

You will therefore need to consider whether it would be appropriate for you to hold on to the information for a specific period to take account of the possibility of a legal challenge and any analysis the police may need to carry out if there are any integrity concerns.

It is important that your document retention policy sets out the period you will retain documents and your reason for doing so. Unless there is a legal challenge or investigation, you should not retain any documents relating to a particular elector for more than 12 months after they have been removed from the register, as this is the usual time limit for any prosecutions.

In any case, unless there is a legal challenge, make sure that you do not retain documents for longer than the period specified in your document retention policy and securely destroy them at the appropriate point. This should include ensuring that you have processes in place to manage any scanned images held on your electoral management system (EMS). 

The Information Commissioner’s Office provides general advice on the retention of personal data.

Where you decide to keep any application-related documents beyond the point of determination, you must redact the applicant’s National Insurance number from any documentation you have, including the application form, within a period of 13 months from the date the application was determined.3 The requirement to redact the applicant’s National Insurance number does not apply where this documentation is required for the purpose of any civil or criminal investigations or proceedings.4  

You need to ensure that you can carry out such redactions, which may include using special redaction software. The council’s Data Protection Officer should be able to give you advice on redaction of personal information. You also need to keep a record of the day on which you have made your determination on an application, so that you can accurately calculate the 13 month period. Your EMS system may facilitate this.

National Insurance numbers will only be available on paper applications, or where someone has applied in person or by telephone; for applications made online, you will not receive the National Insurance number.

For more information, see our guidance on data protection considerations which contains further information the storage of personal data and on document retention, including what should be included in a document retention policy. 

Last updated: 13 December 2023