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Postal Voting

Volume 451: debated on Wednesday 1 November 2006

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs pursuant to the answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Vale of Clwyd (Chris Ruane) on 19 October 2006, Official Report, column 1387W, on postal voting, (1) what methods of collecting additional personal identifiers from existing postal voters her Department will advise returning officers to use; (97434)

(2) whether targets will be set for returning officers for the collection of additional personal identifiers from existing postal voters;

(3) what monitoring of the process of collecting additional personal identifiers from existing postal voters her Department will introduce.

The Government plan shortly to make transitional regulations that will require Electoral Registration Officers (EROs) to obtain a signature and date of birth from existing postal voters to ensure that they will be subject to the new personal identifiers arrangements for absent voters. The regulations will require EROs to send a notice in writing to existing postal voters requesting the personal identifiers, which may be sent by the Royal Mail, a commercial delivery firm or any other way that the ERO thinks appropriate. EROs will be required to send a reminder to postal voters who have not responded after 21 days. Further, EROs will be required to provide information to existing postal voters about how the personal identifiers will be used, and to explain that failure to provide the personal identifiers will result in the person losing their entitlement to vote by post, though loss of entitlement will not prevent the person from making a fresh postal vote application.

We do not consider it would be practical to set targets for the collection of the personal identifiers or to put in place formal monitoring arrangements. I understand that the independent Electoral Commission plans to issue guidance to electoral administrators about the collection of personal identifiers from existing postal voters, and to collect data about the number of notices issued by EROs and the percentage that are returned.