The credit rating company Esperian uses information on the Electoral Register as one of a number of data sources used to validate identification of applicants and improve accuracy of lending decisions. It’s also recently published a study of 18-year-olds showing that such coming of age voters swap the ballot box for Facebook. Compared with the 520,000 registered-to-vote and turned 18, almost twice as many i.e. 1.05 million 18-year-olds, are Facebook users. This suggests that such social networks together with the internet, could be better exploited by the Electoral Commission to not only improve voter registration rates for the younger members of society but also for those expatriates still able to vote but put off by the now rather out-moded bureaucracy of both registering and voting on time. When uploading Electoral Roll data, Esperian applies a rigorous series of checks and processes to ensure such information is secure, accurate and fit-for-purpose; this dovetails very nicely with the government’s plan to move towards Individual Electoral Registration (instead of by householder declaration) in order to reduce fraudulent registration and voting and the impact on other activities e.g. the determination of jury service duty.
Of course, if you are one of the many British expatriates without the right to vote after more than 15 years away from the UK, you do have the advantage that you could be identified for voting purposes very readily by HMG through your passport should they so choose. However, currently you don’t have the benefit of being registered on the Electoral Roll in order to vote or improve your credit rating either! If you can still vote but are not yet registered as an overseas voter, you can download a registration form from www.aboutmyvote.co.uk but are then also likely to find that postal voting papers are sent out so late (seemingly to almost discriminate against overseas voters), you’ll need a suitable proxy to meet any election deadline.
For both younger and overseas voters, the current approach to electoral registration and voting needs modernising.