When you register to vote, you get added to the electoral roll. This means you’re able to take part in local and general elections, but there are important, hidden financial advantages.
For instance, getting on the electoral register can improve your credit score, which means you’ll find it easier to access financing such as loans, mortgages and credit cards.
Read on to learn what the electoral roll is, how to make sure you’re on it, what happens when you move and all the advantages of getting registered.
The electoral roll is simply a list of the names and addresses of all the people registered to vote in the UK. There are two versions – the full version and the ‘open register’.
Members of the public can choose to buy a copy of the open register. If you’re worried about privacy, you can opt out of this version, which means your details won’t appear on it.
The full version of the register is used for elections and referenda. You can’t opt out, but it’s not publicly searchable. It’s used for all sorts of things, including sending out poll cards, selecting people for jury duty and credit checks.
Checking if you’re on the electoral roll is relatively straightforward. In England, Scotland or Wales you need to contact your local Electoral Registration Office. In Northern Ireland, you contact the Electoral Office for Northern Ireland (EONI) instead.
Enter your postcode, and you’ll be given contact details for your local electoral registration scheme. Usually, you’ll get a phone number and an email address, and you can use either to get in touch.
You should also be able to see if you’re registered by checking your credit report.
If you move house, you should update your details. This will allow you to vote in the right area for where you live, and it is also good from a credit check perspective.
Credit reference agencies look more favourably on people who stay in one address for a long time, so if you move a lot – for instance if you’re a student – you might want to consider registering at a stable address such as your parents’.
If you’re not registered, or you want to update your details, you can do so quickly online on the government website. This shouldn’t take more than five minutes.
The most obvious benefit of being on the electoral roll is that you’re eligible to vote – and you’ll need to be registered if you want a postal vote too. But there are lots of other advantages worth considering.
One main one is that it improves you credit score. This is the rating used by lenders to help decide whether to give you access to credit.
Being on the register means you’re more likely to be approved for mortgages, credit cards, loans and other financial products. The higher your score, the better the deal you’ll get, so you could also find borrowing is more affordable and you pay less interest.
It also saves you time on your credit applications, because it makes it easier for lenders to check you are who you say you are. If you’re not registered, you may have to prove your identity in other ways, which could mean your application is delayed.
You may find it makes lots of other life admin far easier, for instance getting a passport, using accounting services and accessing insurance. It can even help you get a job as some sectors (such as finance) use the electoral roll to check your identity.
Once you’ve registered, your electoral details should automatically appear on your credit report within 30 days.
The exception to this is if you sign up as part of the annual canvass. In this case, your credit file won’t automatically be updated until December 1, although you can alert the Credit Reference Agencies sooner and ask them to update their records.
Legally, you’re supposed to be on the electoral roll and you have to register to vote if you’re asked to and you meet the criteria.
The government website says you could even face a fine if you don’t comply. Despite this, many people aren’t registered. It’s worth doing off your own back, as there are plenty of benefits.
Each July, the Electoral Registration Offices (EROs) contact people to check if the details on the electoral register are correct. This is called the annual canvass. If you’re not registered but you qualify, you may be asked to sign up.
You don’t have to be on the open register. You’re allowed to opt out which means that your details won’t appear for individuals and companies that buy a copy.
When you move house, your details aren’t updated automatically. Instead, you’ll need update the details yourself.
This is important as it helps protect against financial fraud, improves your chances of getting credit and allows you to vote in your area in local elections. It’s quick and easy and can be done online.
You can’t take yourself off the full electoral register, but you can remove yourself from the open version.
To do this you need to:
use the register to vote service (even if you’re already registered)
contact your local Electoral Registration Office if you live in England, Scotland or Wales
contact the Electoral Office for Northern Ireland (EONI) if you live in Northern Ireland
Generally, once you’re on the electoral roll – you stay there, but there are some exceptions. For instance, thousands of people were removed when the government changed the rules about how people were registered.
You could also be taken off if you move overseas. You’re allowed to register as an overseas voter, but you need to renew this registration each year or you’ll be deleted.