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The electoral roll (or electoral register) is a listing of all those registered to vote in a particular area. The register facilitates the process of voting, helps to prevent fraud and may also be used to select people for jury duty. Electoral registers are used in many democracies including the United Kingdommarker, Australia, and New Zealandmarker.

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, the right and obligation to register for voting extends to all British, Republic of Ireland, Commonwealth and European Union citizens. British citizens living overseas may register for up to 15 years after they were last registered at an address in the UK. It is possible for someone to register before their 18th birthday as long as they will reach that age before the next revision of the register.

The register is compiled for each polling district, and held by the electoral registration office. In England and Wales this office is located at the local council (district, borough, or unitary level). In Scotland, the offices are sometimes located with councils, but may also be separate. Northern Ireland has a central Electoral Office run by the government.

At present, the register is compiled by sending an annual canvass form to every house (a process introduced by Representation of the People Act 1918). A fine of up to £1,000 (level 3 on the Standard scale) can be imposed for failing to complete the form or giving false information. Up to 2001, the revised register was published on 15 February each year, based on a qualifying date of 10 October, and a draft register published on 28 November the previous year. From 2001 as a result of the Political Parties,Elections and Referendums Act 2000, the annual 'revised' register is published on 1 December, although it is possible to update the register with new names each month between January and September.

The register has two formats. The full version of the register is available for supervised inspection by anyone, by legal right. It is this register that is used for voting and its supply and use is limited by law. Copies of this register are available to certain groups and individuals, such as credit reference agencies and political parties.

An 'edited' version of the register, which omits those people who have chosen to 'opt-out', can be purchased by anyone for any purpose.

The full register contains the following information:
  • voter number (two letters indicating the polling district, followed by a number)
  • voter's name and address
  • date of birth (if 18th birthday falls within a year of the register is published)
  • if the voter has requested a postal vote
  • after an election, an indication of whether or not that voter cast their vote

Plans for a Coordinated Online Register of Electors (CORE) are underway; the intention being to standardise local registers and permit central data access.

It has been suggested that in the future the register may be taken from the data that is to be held on the proposed Citizen Information Project [113294], or on the National Identity Register [113295]. In January 2005 the Constitutional Affairs Committee and the Office of the Deputy Prime Ministermarker began a joint inquiry into reforming the registration system.

Despite widespread calls for its introduction, the Electoral Administration Act 2006 did not provide for individual voter registration, on the justification that registration levels would fall.

United States

Electoral rolls, or poll books, have been used in the United Statesmarker since the founding to determine voting eligibility. Modern poll books are a list of registered voters with eligibility to participate in an election. In the United States, the roll is usually managed by a local entity such as a county or parish. However, the data used for electoral rolls may be provided by state wide sources. While traditional poll books are printed voter rolls, more recently Electronic pollbooks have come into favor. Computerized electoral rolls allow for larger numbers of voters to be handled easily and allows for more flexibility in poll locations and the electoral process.


The earliest electoral rolls in Australia date from the 1840s, for the states of New South Walesmarker and Victoriamarker.

Compilation of an annual electoral roll for the Commonwealth of Australia commenced following federation in 1901. For some years afterwards, the individual States also compiled State electoral rolls, but (with the exception of Western Australiamarker) these have been discontinued, and State and local elections are today based upon the Commonwealth electoral roll.

Enrolment is compulsory for all eligible voters (with the exception of Norfolk Islandmarker, where enrolment is voluntary). Voting is open to Australian citizens, and to British citizens who have been resident in Australia since before 1984 (about 9% of the electoral roll).

Currently the electoral roll merely records the name and address of the voter, although in previous years occupation was also recorded.

The register is compiled by the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) on a state/territory-wide basis, in alphabetical order of surname. Prior to 1988 electoral rolls were compiled by polling division and sub-division.

Until 1990, Lord Howe Islandmarker was recorded within the Sydney polling division.

The Cocos Islandsmarker and Christmas Islandmarker are today recorded on the Northern Territorymarker roll.

Since 21 July 2004 the Australian electoral roll has not been sold in any format. It has not been produced in printed format since 1985, when it changed to publication on microfiche. Today it is only produced in an electronic format, and only for viewing at an AEC office. Each office holds a copy of the electoral roll for the entire country.

These arrangements try to strike a balance between privacy of the voters, andThe publication of the roll is integral to the conduct of free and fair elections, enabling participants to verify the openness and accountability of the electoral process and object to the enrolment of any elector.


The electoral register in Ireland is maintained by the local authorities and all residents that have reached 18 years of age in the state may register at the address in which they are 'ordinarily resident'. Each November a draft register is published after house-to-house enquiries. The register then comes into force the following February after time for appeals and additions. A supplementary register is published which allows voters make alterations (usually change of address or becoming 18 years of age) prior to voting day. Postal votes are restricted to certain occupations, students and the disabled or elderly resident away from their home. There is also provision for special voters that are usually physically disabled.

While all residents can be registered voting in Ireland depends on citizenship. All residents are entitled to vote in local authority elections. Irish and EU citizens may vote in European parliament elections. Irish and UK citizens may vote in elections to Dáil Éireann. Only Irish citizens may vote in elections for the President and in constitutional referendums.

The electoral register for elections to the six university seats in Seanad Éireann is maintained by the National University of Ireland and University of Dublin. Irish citizens that are graduates of these universities over 18 years of age may register. Voting is by postal vote and residence in the state is not required.

New Zealand

Electoral rolls have been used in New Zealandmarker since the late nineteenth century, and some are available in public libraries for genealogical research. Traditionally, the Maori indigenous people have had separate electoral registration; electoral rolls for the Maori were introduced in 1948. In 1975 electors of Maori descent were given the choice of whether to register on the Maori or "general" electoral registers.

See also


  1. The Electoral Commission : Your vote : FAQs
  2. Electoral Rolls at the Christchurch City Libraries website
  3. History of the vote in New Zealand at the Elections New Zealand official website

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