South Tyneside Council is calling on people to ensure they are on the Electoral Register and their right to vote is protected as it begins its annual canvass.
Residents are encouraged to look out for letters being delivered to homes across the Borough over the coming weeks to help the Council identify all those entitled to vote.
With elections taking place in South Tyneside in May 2022, this is an important opportunity for residents to make sure they can take part.
The annual canvass ensures the Council can keep the Electoral Register up to date, identifying any residents who are not registered and encouraged them to do so.
John Rumney, South Tyneside's Returning Officer, said: "The Council has a duty to maintain an accurate Electoral Register and it is very important that all adults and young people over the age of 16 living in the Borough are on it.
"We would advise people to look out for the letter arriving and, where required, respond as soon as possible to protect their right to vote in local and general elections and referendums.
"Those not currently registered won't appear in the letters we send. The easiest way to register is online at www.gov.uk/register-to-vote
"By law, we have to call at the homes of those residents who do not respond to the letters. As the canvass is taking place during a challenging public health situation, we are urging residents to respond immediately once letters are received. This will reduce the need for us to do house calls, helping us to keep our residents, staff and their families safe and to minimise the risk of spreading coronavirus."
Residents are asked to check the printed details and follow the instructions on how to respond if required.
Residents who need to respond are encouraged to do so online immediately, where they will be able to:
amend a name;
add the names, and nationality, of any new occupants;
remove the names of those who no longer live at the address;
confirm there are no changes needed;
request a postal vote application form;
make changes to the open register.
Responding to the letter does not automatically register new occupiers to vote.
Any new occupiers, who are not listed on the letter, will also need to apply to register to vote. People can apply to register to vote online via the gov.uk website, where they can give all the information they need to register, including their date of birth and national insurance number.
Those who do not apply to register online will be sent a paper form in the post.
People who have moved home recently are particularly encouraged to look out for the letters and check the details.
Research by the Electoral Commission indicates that recent home movers are far less likely to be registered than those who have lived at the same address for a long time. Across Great Britain, 92 per cent of people who have been at their property for more than 16 years will be registered, compared to 36 per cent of people who have lived at an address for less than one year.
Melanie Davidson, Head of Support and Improvement at the Electoral Commission, said "It's really important that everyone who is entitled to vote is able to do so. Checking the messages that you will get from your local authority is the easiest way to see if you're registered to vote. If you're not, make sure you provide the necessary information to your local authority when it is needed and register to vote online at www.gov.uk/register-to-vote."
The Register of Electors will be used from 1 December 2021 to 30 November 2022.
The Representation of the People Act 1983 places a duty on Electoral Registration Officers to maintain the electoral register for their area and to conduct an annual canvass of all residential properties.
The electoral register lists the names and addresses of everyone who is registered to vote in public elections. The register is used for electoral purposes, such as making sure only eligible people can vote. It is also used for other limited purposes specified in law, such as detecting crime (e.g. fraud), calling people for jury service or checking credit applications.
The open register is an extract of the electoral register, but is not used for elections. It can be bought by any person, company or organisation. For example, it is used by businesses and charities to confirm name and address details. 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.
To be eligible to register to vote a person must be:
Aged 16 or over (a person may register to vote at 16, but may not vote until they are 18);
A British or qualifying Commonwealth citizen who has leave to enter and remain in the UK or does not require such leave;
A citizen of the Republic of Ireland or other European Union (EU) member state.
British citizens, Irish citizens and qualifying citizens of Commonwealth countries (including Cyprus and Malta) can vote in local government elections and Police and Crime Commissioner elections. To date, the UK Government has not made changes to the eligibility of EU citizens, meaning at present they too can vote in these elections.