Myths about voting and registering to vote

Here are some common myths about voting and registering to vote and an explanation on each.

Myth 1: I pay council tax so I am registered to vote.

Reality: Council tax records and the electoral register contain different information. Council tax records hold the name of the bill payer, but not necessarily all the people who live at the property. For this and many other legal reasons, the electoral registration officer is not allowed to take names from council tax and add them to the electoral register. 

Myth 2: My credit score won't be affected if I'm not on the register 

Reality: The electoral register is often used for credit referencing purposes to counteract fraud. If you are not registered you may be refused credit, or have problems opening a bank account or taking out a mobile phone contract. The main credit reference agencies receive information from us each December, and monthly updates between January and September, but it can take them a few weeks to update their records after each update. If you are registered and are still having problems you should contact one of the agencies to get a copy of your credit file, so that you can check the details they have for you. 

Myth 3: If I register to vote, my personal details will be sold to other organisations 

Reality: There are two versions of the register - the electoral register and the open register. The electoral register is used only for electoral purposes, calling people for jury service, preventing and detecting crime and checking applications for credit. The open register is available for general sale and can be used for commercial activities such as direct marketing. Your name and address will appear on the electoral register but you have the choice to opt-out of the open register. 

Myth 4: I'm only 17 so I don't need to register yet 

Reality: If you are 16 or 17 years old and will be 18 within the life of the electoral register you should be registered. If an election is called and you are not 18 at that time, then you will not qualify to vote. However, if an election is called and you are 18, then you will be able to vote. Each voter is now responsible for their own registration, don't assume your mum or dad will have done it for you.

If you are not registered to vote, you can register online at 

Myth 5: If there is a national election or referendum called everyone has to register to vote again 

Reality: Once you are registered you will be able to vote at all elections you are eligible for. Your registration lasts for as long as you live at the address you are registered at. If you move home you need to apply to register at your new address. 

Myth 6: You can't use a pen to mark your ballot paper in a polling station 

Reality: There is no legal requirement for ballot papers to be marked with a pencil. Pencils are provided inside polling booths, however pens are available from the Presiding Officer or voters can choose to use their own pen. Pencils are used for practical reasons: with ink pens there is always a risk that they may dry out or spill; ink may cause some transfer of the mark the voter has made on the ballot paper when they fold it, potentially leading to their vote being rejected if, for example, it looks like they have voted for more candidates than they are entitled to. 

Myth 7: You can't vote if you haven't got your poll card 

Reality: Poll cards are delivered for information; you do not need to take it with you to vote. As long as your name is on the register being used in the polling station, and you have not applied to vote by post and you show an accepted form of identification, you will be given a ballot paper in the polling station. 

Find out more about Voter ID here. 

Myth 8: I'm a student and I registered at home so I don't need to register again 

Reality: Students are entitled to be registered at both their term time address and home address. This is providing that both places are considered as permanent homes. 

Being registered at both your home address and your term-time addresses doesn't necessarily mean you get two votes.

You will need to choose one address and vote in only that area when you're voting in:

  • UK Parliament elections
  • UK referendums

You can't vote at both your term-time address and your home address at these elections. Voting in more than one location is a criminal offence. 

For other elections you can vote at both your term-time and your home address.

You can choose to vote in either or both areas (as long as the addresses are in different council areas) when you're voting in:

  • Local council elections in England
  • Police and Crime commissioner elections

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