The Electoral Register

The Council is responsible for preparing the Register of Electors for West Lancashire.  

The Annual Canvass


What is the annual canvass?


The purpose of the canvass is to identify everyone who should be on the electoral register. This means identifying citizens and inviting those who should be registered but are currently not to join the register, as well as identifying electors who are no longer at a property and should therefore be removed from the register. A revised version of the electoral register must be published by 1 December each year, following the conclusion of the annual canvass.


Previously, Electoral Registration Offices (EROs) in Great Britain were required to send every household an annual canvass form, which required a response regardless of whether there have been any changes in the household. EROs were also required to follow up any non-responses with a further two reminder forms and carry out a household visit, if required.


Why did the canvass need to change?


This previous canvass process was widely recognised to be outdated and cumbersome. The one-size-fits-all approach, incorporating numerous prescribed steps, took little account of differences within and between registration areas. It was heavily paper-based, expensive, complex to administer and it stifled innovation. It was also clear that the process led to confusion for citizens. As a result, the UK, Scottish and Welsh governments passed legislation to update the canvass process. This project is known as ‘canvass reform’.


What is the purpose of canvass reform?


Given the previous limitations of the canvass process, the purpose of canvass reform is:

  • to make the process simpler and clearer for citizens;
  • for EROs to have greater discretion to run a tailored canvass which better suits their local area;
  • to reduce the administrative burden on EROs and the financial burden on taxpayers;
  • to safeguard the completeness and accuracy of the registers;
  • to maintain the security and integrity of the registers; and
  • to include the capacity for innovation and improvement, with a model that is adaptable to future change.


What does this mean for electors?


Canvass reform has made the process simpler and clearer for citizens as electors in properties where a change is unlikely - based on data matching results - now only have to respond to canvass communications if they have a change to report. In addition, through the introduction of e-communications and updated messaging on paper forms, electors who do need to report a change are encouraged to provide their response online, rather than having to fill out and post back a paper form.


The reform also continues to ensure that everyone entitled to register to vote has the right to participate in the democratic process by requiring EROs to contact every household in Great Britain at least once within the canvass process.


Some local authorities and valuation joint boards in Scotland will be running public awareness campaigns to highlight the changes and encourage people to respond to email and telephone canvassing. This is particularly important for the 2020 canvass as it may reduce the need for household visits, which presents challenges due to the coronavirus pandemic and the need for social distancing.


What about forms?


If national and local data suggests no change you will be issued a form saying so and you only need to respond if there is a change to report. We also contact households by email if we have an email address on file.


Properties that can't be matched by national and local data will be issued a form that must be responded to, and non-responding properties will be issued reminders. We may also contact households by telephone if there is a phone number associated with the property.

The full register

The full register lists everyone who is entitled to vote. You can check it by calling at the council offices or at some local libraries.  

Only certain people and organisations can have copies of the full register, and they can only use it for specified purposes such as the prevention and detection of crime, and checking your identity when you have applied for credit, calling people for jury services. The law says who can have a copy of the full register and what they can use it for. The full list of such persons and purposes is given in the Representation of the People (England and Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2001. It is a criminal offence for them to pass it on to anyone else or to use it for any other purpose.  

The open register

The open register is an extract of the electoral register, but is not used for elections. For example it can be used for marketing purposes. The open register can be bought by anyone who asks for a copy and they may use it for any purpose. Your name and address will be included in the open register unless you ask for them to be removed. Removing your details from the open register does not affect your right to vote. It leaves out the names and addresses of people who have asked for their names to be excluded from that version of the register.

If you want your name and address to be excluded from the open register please put a X in the appropriate box on the registration form.  

Your privacy

We will only use the information you provide for electoral purposes.  We will not give it to anyone else unless we have to by law.  To find out how your personal information is processed (opens a new page)


Visit register online (external link) to apply to register to vote. You only need to register is there is a material change, such as you move house, change your name or nationality.  There is no need to re-register before every election.