To be able to vote in elections and on referendums in England (UK) you must be 18 years of age or older and MUST be on the Electoral Register (also known as the Electoral Roll); though you can register to vote (have your name put on the electoral register/roll) when you are 16 years old.
You get your name on the Electoral Register Web Pageelectoral register, and therefore the right to vote, by filling out the Register To Vote Web PageRegister To Vote online application form. After that, nothing happens! However, as soon as there is an election (How Elections Work Web Pagelocal or general) coming up, you are sent a Poll Card that tells you when and where to vote. Usually in a school hall, church hall or community centre.
You will find the registration process very straight forward. Besides basic questions about any previous address(es), previous registrations, and how you would like to vote (i.e. in person or by post), all you will be asked for on the online 'Register To Vote' application form is your Name, Date-of-Birth, National Insurance Number and Current Address.
The electoral register lists the names and addresses of everyone who has registered to vote. Your local Electoral Registration Office Web PageElectoral Registration Office will tell you where you can view the current electoral register for your particular borough (district), which is normally the local library or in a local council office.
You cannot view the complete London electoral register for example simply because that book would be huge! Hence why each borough (district) has a local copy of the electoral register. In fact, there are two versions of the electoral register. The FULL (Complete) Register and the Opt Out Of Electoral Register Web PageOPEN Register.
The FULL (Complete) Register, by default, has the names and addresses of everyone who registered to vote inside it. This version is used for election reasons (i.e. to make sure only eligible people can vote), to prevent and detect crime and for checking applications for loans or credit. In other words, banks and lenders use the full register. Hence why banks like to see your name on the full electoral register before giving you a bank account for example.
The OPEN Register (also known as the Edited Register) is a public version of the full register, available to anyone who wants to purchase a copy of it; including criminals and scam artists. It does not contain all of the details that are inside the full version, but does contain the names and addresses of everyone who registered to vote.... unless they 'Opted Out'; which means they stated on the 'Register To Vote' application form that they do not want their name and address details to appear on the Open Register.
Tick the box to opt out of the OPEN Electoral Register
Examples of those who use the FULL Electoral Register
Examples of those who use the OPEN Electoral Register
From the list above, many people choose not to 'Register To Vote' purely on the above evidence that too many people know about them. And many choose not to 'Register To Vote' because they feel "Why register when the elected politicians never listen anyway". Just look at the Brexit situation.....
To give you an idea of pricing: Westminster Council currently sell a computerised (CSV file) version of the Open Register, for the whole of Westminster, for £111.50 and a paper version for £315 plus £5 postage, both containing 60604 electors.
With the above said, IT IS ILLEGAL NOT TO REGISTER TO VOTE. You MUST 'Register To Vote' by LAW. Those who choose not to register are breaking the law.
There are various pieces of legislation that require people to provide information to the Electoral Registration Officer. The Representation of the People Regulations Web PageRepresentation of the People Regulations 2001 for example are quite clear and should provide you with the necessary assurance that you are legally required to provide information requested by the Electoral Registration Officer.
Representation of the People Regulations 2001 (as amended)
Schedule 3 - Power to require information
23.—(1) A registration officer may require any person to give information required for the purposes of that officer’s duties in maintaining registers of parliamentary and local government electors.
(2) A registration officer is under a duty to require persons to give information required for the purposes of that officer’s duty under section 3(1) of the Juries Act 1974(a).
(3) If any person — (a) fails to comply with, or (b) gives false information in pursuance of, any such requisition of the registration officer as is mentioned in this regulation, he shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale.
Each year every household address in your borough will be sent a Household Enquiry Form in the post, which is addressed to the currently registered occupier (i.e. tenant or owner) at that address (as opposed to other individuals registered at that address), so that they can either confirm (online or by post) the accuracy of all people listed on the form as 'registered to vote' or notify the Electoral Registration Office of any changes (i.e. add a new tenant's name and/or lodger's name to the list). Giving false information can lead to a £1,000 fine.
In some cases, an Electoral Registration Officer might pay a visit to that address, for whatever reason(s), whereby you may be asked details. Failing to cooperate may lead to an £80 fine.