Now the electoral register will require (1) your signature (2) your date of birth (3) your NI number, in addition to (4) your name and (5) address…

Michael-Wills-MP-001 Yesterday, a speech was given by the (*Orwell weeps*) "Justice Minister", Michael Wills, rebutting (9 months late) the Rowntree report into the Database State. His speech prompted the Aaronovitch column about which I wrote here.

The one new announcement in his speech (not online, alas for us all) was this:

To that end, I am announcing today that the Ministry of Justice will host an event early in the New Year to consider how we approach the data sharing aspects of reforms to the electoral register. The electoral register is a vital document.  It is the foundation stone of our democratic processes and vital to the integrity of our elections.  It has also, since the 19th century, been a public document – although there are important restrictions on who may obtain a copy of the full register.

The register is held locally, by some 400 different Electoral Registration Officers.  The unit of electoral registration has historically been the household.  The Government passed legislation this summer to move to a system of individual registration – where each person will provide their name and address, and three personal identifiers – signature, date of birth, and national Insurance number – in order to be entered onto the register.

Let us consider that proposal.

Creating a national database of our signatures, NI numbers and dates of birth has obvious risks for our privacy and identity security. That's not always wrong; those risks might properly be balanced with benefits, so one asks – what is the problem the Minister wants to remedy?

The sole problem he identified in his speech is election fraud. This is a very small issue in this country, and is driven mostly by postal voting.  The “solution” he suggests comes with many problems of its own but doesn’t really address the very problem he says he wants to solve.

We have managed to have elections in this country without surrendering this sort of information for hundreds of years.

He wants to create a mechanism out of all proportion with the problem he has identified, with multiple inherent risks unjustified by the tiny benefit his scheme promises.

By Alex Deane

Posted by on Dec 9, 2009 in Databases | 7 Comments


  1. Eve
    9th December 2009

    The speech is available. You can find it here.

  2. Old Holborn
    9th December 2009

    This is why I refuse to register to vote

  3. Biffo
    9th December 2009

    My I suggest lying on the form? They can have ‘A’ signature (though not my usual one)’A’ DOB – though again, not mine – ditto NI Number.

  4. Matt Oliver
    9th December 2009

    I think you are all a little uneducated in terms of electoral fraud.
    Can I suggest you go to and read up on how bad the problem is and why the reforms have been broadly welcomed by electoral administrators.
    The Government already holds this information on us already! These proposals mean that this information is shared with electoral officers to prevent cases of electoral fraud and actually improve levels of registration.
    Matthew Oliver
    Project Officer – Stamp Out Voting Fraud

  5. NeverSurrender
    10th December 2009

    I’m with you Old Holborn. I keep my name off the register. There’s no party I would vote for anyway so I’m not missing out on voting. Funny thing is though, since ‘de-registering’the junk mail has almost disappeared. What a bonus. :-)

  6. B Gilbraith
    7th July 2012

    The Electoral Register is already being exploited and abused by Credit Reference Agencies. It is supposed only to be available to them for the purposes of identity checks in relation to the giving of credit. Not for locating debtors. However, credit providers check identity data they are given with the data on the ER to ensure it is the same. Credit Reference Agencies then sell access to this data verified to be that on the ER for the purposes of tracking down debtors, some of which are innocent and many of which are then subjected to harassment. This breaches the Representation of the Peoples Act at worst and circumvents it at the least. Government and the ICO support this activity. Left to their own devices, the Government will share your NI number and perhaps other information. Similarly, credit providers are allowed to see your private information only for the prevention of extending credit inappropriately but Credit Reference Agencies sell access to this information to allow them to identify which debtors are worth pursuing and which are not and to enable them to demand repayment while funds still remain.

  7. sy
    31st July 2014

    Interstingly as a civil servant we have all been advised that our NI numbers are being provided to the MoD “for statistical purposes”. When objecting and advising HR operations that I do not permit them to share am told that they can do this without permission from staff and that they will do this on a number of occasions!!!