There are two versions of the electoral register – a full and an ‘edited’ version. The Edited Electoral Register (EER) was introduced in 2002 in order that the Full Register could be restricted for use in elections and very limited other purposes, leaving the EER to be used by business, government, the voluntary sector and individuals. The EER is indispensable because it is the only UK wide database of people which is collated specifically with their consent. It has considerable value both to society and the economy, and it is why I welcomed the Government’s decision last year to save the EER.
There are some common misconceptions about the EER: That it increases the incidence of fraud by making private data public, and; that it makes junk mail possible. Both are misjudged. Firstly, almost all online retailers rely on the EER to prevent both identity and credit card fraud. This edited version is also used for a whole host of other positive reasons: for example, by people and charities such as the Salvation Army to reunite missing families or the Antony Nolan Trust to locate bone marrow donors, journalists to validate stories as well as businesses to reduce their exposure to fraud.
Secondly, the EER in fact permits direct mail companies and fundraisers to remove people from their target mailshots and to ensure a greater degree of accuracy. Unaddressed mailings are easily dealt with – but the easiest way is to register with the ‘Mail Preference Service’ which allows your details to be removed for unsolicited post.
But as we move to Individual Electoral Registration (IER), the EER - though saved – is still at risk of being undermined. The Cabinet Office has an important opportunity to maintain and strengthen this valuable resource.