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Changes to the way you register to vote mean that your personal details could be sold on to third parties - unless you tick a box making sure they aren't. member Peter Gould highlighted the problem to us. He says when he recently received his election forms he saw that the ''opt out'' box had been left unticked.

The Council keeps two copies of the register - the "full" version for electoral purposes, and the "edited" version which can be sold to commercial companies, who use the information for marketing.

Mr Gould says he normally completes the form online but found he was unable to opt out of the edited register. In order to do so he had to return the printed form to the Town Hall.

He questioned the need to have to opt-out and was sent this reply by an elections officer:

'' In the past year we have received instructions from both the Electoral Commission and the Cabinet Office (formerly the Ministry of Justice) that electors must re-state their intention to opt out of the edited register each time they complete either the annual voter registration form or a rolling registration form.

''It has been the previous opinion of both Ealing Council and, as far as I know, every other local authority in the UK that this should not be the case however, given the instructions from central government, and the likelihood of a legal challenge to the conduct of the register should we pre-print the opt out on the form, we reached the conclusion that Ealing Council had no choice other than to comply.''

Mr Gould says: "I was surprised to see the opt out boxes on my form had been unticked. I wasn't aware of the change in policy, and I hope other people realise that they will now have to register their opt out every year. I don't really see why this can't be done online, especially as the council has been encouraging people to use the online registration process, presumably to cut down on paperwork."

A Council spokesperson says: "Previously in Ealing, once a person had ticked the opt-out box then this would have carried over each year - now the Electoral Commission and the Cabinet Office have said they must repeat this information every time they register.

''There is no option online or by phone to opt-out as this would mean a change to the electors details and any changes to electors details must be accompanied by a signature."

29 September 2010


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