Council runs pilot in first phase of Cabinet Office programme to find new approach to updating voter register
Birmingham City Council has begun to use its data warehouse to maintain its electoral register and ensure anyone eligible signs up to vote.
It is running a pilot project, with Cabinet Office support, to identify people whose details may have changed.
The council is checking the electoral register against data in the warehouse – it cited the example of council tax records – to spot where the former may not be up to date. It is then targeting people by email, post or knocking on doors, to ensure their information is up to date.
Birmingham’s head of electoral services Robert Connelly commented: “As well as ensuring that as many people as possible can play their part in the democratic process, this is also helping us make significant financial savings by not having to send out as many letter or conduct as many home visits. We have already saved an estimated £100,000 this year and believe we will save up to £200,000 annually going forward.”
The project is taking place under the Electoral Registration Pilot Scheme, which was set up after electoral registration officers told the Cabinet Office they were frustrated by canvass procedures. Birmingham and two other local authorities are carrying out the pilots.
Baroness Chisholm, the Cabinet Office spokesperson in the House of Lords, told Parliament earlier this year that South Lakeland District Council is carrying out a similar project to Birmingham. Ryedale District Council is piloting the use of household notification letters rather than the usual household enquiry forms.
The pilots are due to run until February of next year, following which the Electoral Commission is due to report on them by July.
Baroness Chisholm indicated that a second round of pilots is planned for next year and that, subject to the outcome, the Government intends to make changes to the way the canvass is carried out.
“The purpose of these pilots is to give electoral registration officers the space to innovate and test alternative, more effective approaches in relation to the annual canvass,” she said.
Image: Birmingham from Centenary Square by Andy G, CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons