Several councils in the UK have launched the ability for voters to reconfirm their registration on the electoral role by SMS.
The electoral registration service, called HERA, is provided by Halarose, a company that develops and supplies electoral registration and elections management solutions to local authorities. The system also allows households to register by freephone and Internet.
Electors can use any of these options if the information on the form they receive has no changes from the previous year. They can text in with the word REGISTER plus a 2 part security code that is on the form posted to them, with their date of birth as an additional security back up.
A confirmation SMS is then sent back that thanks the elector for registering and confirms that there is no need for them to send paper form back.
The forms posted yesterday to all electors in the district and what is claimed as the first ever UK electoral registration by SMS was completed at 10:34 yesterday morning by Ann Ducker, Leader of South Oxfordshire District Council (SODC).
Steven Lake from South Oxfordshire District Council said that "We have taken a quantum leap from just post replies to everything including SMS, internet and phone. It may be that in year one not many will use it. Its about providing choice rather than the number of responses".
The service is cost neutral as although there is a cost to send the SMS reply and administer the system, there is a saving as the response envelopes do not need to be opened. Electors have the additional comfort of receiving a confirmation that they are included on the electoral role.
From a privacy point of view, the phone numbers are not passed to the councils from Halarose with only the data passed to them. "As the house is the one immovable object in the project, we will not be using the numbers to resend reminders next year" said Lake.
The company's EROS-II electoral registration and election management systems is already used to register over one in seven UK electors. The other local authorities enabling their electors to register by Halarose’s mobile phone text messaging service include Leeds City Council, Slough Borough Council, Powys County Council, the Vale of White Horse District Council and the Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead.