Using public data sources to improve electoral registration in the UK

Summary

We conducted feasibility studies to explore the potential for giving EROs access to reliable and trusted information from other public sources to maintain accurate and complete electoral registers.

Public data sources included the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, HM Passport Office, HM Revenue and Customs, Department for Work and Pensions, Department for Education and the Education and Skills Funding Agency.

Policy options included:

Policy options included:

  • allowing EROs to access recent transactional data to identify potentially eligible electors and invite them to register;
  • enabling EROs to use data sources to target specific groups of under-registered electors; and
  • more automatic or direct forms of electoral registration, whereby eligible individuals could be added to the electoral register, or have their details updated without their intervention.

The implementation scenarios we tested assumed that the Individual Electoral Registration Digital Service could be further developed to act as a conduit, receiving recent transactional data from new data sources and passing this on to EROs, who could download the information into their EMS systems and then target potential electors.

We also considered whether these reforms could be taken further to support increased levels of automation within the electoral registration system.

We found that digital data sharing, including more automated forms of registration, could be implemented by building on the existing IER infrastructure and without fundamentally changing the structure of the electoral registration system in the UK

Data sources and infrastructures

Public data sources

We began by identifying potentially useful national data sources. We were interested in finding out the types of information recorded in the data sources that could potentially help identify different social groups; the geographical scope of each database; and current uses of the data.

Public data sources

Making better use of public data: implementation scenarios

Based on our understanding of national data sources and infrastructures we developed and tested two implementation scenarios. The scenarios assumed (an assumption tested by the feasibility study) that the IER hub could be further developed to act as a conduit, receiving datasets from a data source and passing it on to EROs who could download it via their EMS systems.

The feasibility study showed that both data sharing scenarios could be implemented by building on the existing IER infrastructure and without fundamentally changing the structure of the electoral registration system. Electoral registers would still be compiled and maintained locally, but with EROs being given access to transactional data from DSOs through further development of the IER hub.

Issues and challenges in public data sharing

While the feasibility studies showed that digital data sharing using national data sources is feasible technically, there are a number of outstanding issues and challenges.

Issues and challenges in public data sharing

Automated and automatic registration

We considered whether the models of digital data sharing between DSOs and EROs could be taken further and support the implementation of automated or automatic systems of electoral registration. To recap:

  • Automated registration would see reliable data being used as the basis of an individual’s electoral registration application, but the individual would still be required to take some further, affirmative steps before being added to the register.
  • Automatic registration would see citizens added to the electoral register, or their address updated, without them being required to take any further steps at all.

We developed and tested two implementation scenarios – one for a system of automated registration, the other for a system of automatic registration. 

In developing the scenarios, we also considered models from other countries. For example, in Australia, a Federal Direct Enrolment & Update process has been introduced to enrol or update a citizen’s details on the electoral roll using information provided to the Australian Electoral Commission from other government agencies, without the person having to complete an enrolment form.

The feasibility studies concluded that both automated and automatic registration could be implemented in technical terms, in theory by utilising the same data sources and infrastructures explored in the better use of data feasibility study. The operational requirements of both reforms would also be similar.

However, we identified several important issues unique to automatic registration.

Automated and automatic registration

Last updated: 26 July 2019
Next review: 25 July 2020